Thanks to social media, people today have more romantic options available to them than at any other time in history. It may seem obvious to point out but what isn't so obvious is the effect this has had on dating and relationships. Modern Romance sees comedian and actor Aziz Ansari embark on a journey of self-discovery, visiting five countries and interviewing hundreds of people in the company of sociology professor Eric Klinenberg.
In Qatar, for example, Ansari finds that there's a "mating season". "It's the mothers who do the initial screening. The mothers of boys go from one house to the other. They're looking for women who are suitable based on family background and education. They're looking for naseeb, their family's destiny for marriage."
In hyper-sexualised Argentina, he discovers telos, or love hotels, where couples can book rooms by the hour - that's if there isn't a park bench available.
Meanwhile, in Japan he learns that there are so many toxic bachelors, the population is declining at an alarming rate - so much so, the government has had to step in to encourage young people to get together. Says Ansari: "Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe allocated $25 million in the 2014 fiscal budget for programs designed to get people to pair off and have babies." And it is in Tokyo that Aziz takes one for the team, masturbating into a silicon egg, as you do, to find out why the practice is so popular. "I was kind of excited to see if it really was masturbation taken to the next level... The thing you put your thing in was cold and weird. It felt like I was masturbating with a thick, cold condom on," he writes. Thanks for that, Aziz! That's a mental picture we could have done without...
What Ansari reveals is both perplexing and disturbing in equal measure. We are hardwired for coupledom but we seem to go out of our way to make our love lives as difficult as possible. It is sobering to see how much attitudes to love and sex have changed in just a few decades - especially in the western world. "For the generation that grew up in a smartphone culture, sexting has become a common step in the journey towards becoming sexually active," writes Ansari. "Along with a first kiss, now, at some point, there is often a first sext."
I was thinking that it wouldn't surprise me if some production company didn't snap this book up and base a reality show around it, with Ansari as a kind of gonzo journalist travelling the globe, investigating bizarre sexual practices, and lo! I read that Netflix have just signed a deal with Ansari for a new comedy series based on - you guessed it - dating and relationships.
Full of interesting facts and fun details and illustrations, Modern Romance is an engaging and very funny read for anyone who has ever been in love - or planning to be.
Modern Romance is available from Amazon.co.uk and all good bookshops