With this model held up for all to see, the prevailing expectations of what it feels like to be "in love" evolved in an ever more extreme direction. For many years, one way to write a new hit song was to describe the experience of being in love in more glowing terms than the songs which were popular at the moment. The reviewer of the 1955 movie, Love is a Many Splendored Thing, writing in The Independent on February 8, 2010, stated: "Remember the lyric: 'Once, on a high and windy hill, two lovers kissed, and the world stood still. . . .' It still makes my knees weak." Today, as products of a culture which glorifies romantic love, we tend to view human experience through these cultural lenses, and choose bits from history which confirm these stereotypes. However, anthropologists are fond of pointing out that after a few years, couples who marry for love are just about as happy as couples who tie the knot in cultures where marriages are arranged.
The effect of suggestion and imitation in producing such a high degree of organismic involvement became more dramatically evident shortly after World War II, when the young crooner Frank Sinatra caused legions of teen-age "bobby-soxers" to swoon when he hit his high notes. It is therefore possible to conclude that the experience of "falling in love" as we know it today, and all that goes with it, is also an effect of social modeling and the power of suggestion.
Suggestion has the power to teach behavior as well as to change it. In 1933, Herbert Blumer found that when moviegoing reached its height, many people said that they first learned how to kiss by watching motion pictures. Many people probably still pick up a few pointers occasionally, both from motion pictures themselves and from many YouTube compilations.
Remember Romeo and Juliet, and Antony and Cleopatra? We now have searchable data bases of Internet pornography such as XNXX, YouPorn, and FetLife, which contain literally millions of items, and almost anyone in the world can upload to them. The entries are frequently ranked in terms of populatiry, so that the submissions which are viewed most often rise to the top. Some of these data bases require no fees, passwords, or proof of age, and are supported entirely by advertising.
Will today's teen-agers and young adults learn sexual behavior by watching porn, in much the same manner that people of earlier generations learned how to kiss by watching motion pictures? If the past is any guide, it would not be unreasonable to expect that the almost unlimited access to free Internet pornography in the Twenty-First Century will enable imitation and the power of suggestion to modify the way couples both engage in and experience sexual behavior, in much the same way that the invention of the printing press centuries before influenced the manner in which people engage in and experience romantic love. This time, however, the changes will depend not upon the imagination of a few gifted writers and balladeers, but upon the pooled experience of the entire human race.
If we are inded in the midst of such a profound cultural change, and if one picture is worth a thousand words, then to quote from the movie, All About Eve, "Hold on to your seat belts. It's going to be a bumpy night!"
Anthropologists frequently point out that a few years down the road, people who marry for romantic love are just about as happy or unhappy as a couple who ties the knot in a culture in which arranged marriages are the norm. If you and your loved one have come to share experiences of rapture, ecstasy, wonder, and delight, only to return to a life of bills to pay, appointments to keep, and an endless list of other things which simply have to be done, the strength of your affection will eventually begin to wane, regardless of how dramatic the results might have been initially. If, on the other hand, you return to an environment in which romance comes ahead of everything else, and the first priority is the quality time you spend with each other, then the joys you share together can take on near-sacramental qualities as the couple consecrates itself to one another anew, and the honeymoon becomes a permanent way of life.