Book Review: Heartland by Jennifer Pinkerton

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Yet the widespread use of dating apps does not suggest this. In fact, Pinkerton reports that up to 15% of Australians are on Tinder at any given time, and Gen Zs (those born between 1997 and 2012) make up over 50% of local users.

It must be difficult, however, as Pinkerton discovers, trying to find someone to love and share a deep connection with when the contagion of hookup culture seems to symphonize with the transactional nature of “swiping.” “I use it for what I need, I have no feelings in this situation,” a student tells Pinkerton. “I don’t care about him. I get what I want.

Hookup culture prioritizes a “sense of transience”, it is “laid back and broad”, where “coldness and detachment are favored over empathy and kindness”. “A hookup is a largely meaningless act of physical intimacy between people who aren’t in a relationship,” says Pinkerton. “No expectations.”

And yet, as Lauren Rosewarne, professor of gender and politics at the University of Melbourne, suggests, “Romance means different things to different people.”

“An affair can also be perceived as romantic by some participants, it just feels like a different kind of romance than what existed a generation ago,” she said. However, Pinkerton points out that “only 15% of young people really enjoy dating, and they are ‘likely to be straight, white, male, wealthy, able-bodied, and conventionally attractive.’ in the process”.

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It’s hard to be upfront and clear about what you want. When you do, you risk coming across as desperate, too intense. “Anyone who shows remorse or tries to turn the hookup into a relationship is the one who gets frowned upon,” a young student told Pinkerton.

It seems to me that dating has always been about power – those with sex currency get away with it without remorse. These power dynamics don’t miraculously end once you find yourself in couple country. Being the one who says “I love you” first makes you the one with “less power”.

In our capitalist and patriarchal structure, where heterosexual cis couples remain the dominant force, vulnerability is always seen as weakness. “What young people want is Appointment,Pinkerton infers, “not emotionally empty encounters that force them to bury their feelings and treat their sexual partners as if they were disposable”. I would go further and add that they also want an intention – an kind, explicit and truthful disclosure of what is sought.

Pinkerton has an amazing ability to penetrate the sacred space of friendship groups, extracting their most private moments, while tenderly offering a space of non-judgmental reverence. There is privacy inside Heartland also, in the way Pinkerton takes us on his journey by dramatizing the physical sensations of desire and anticipation.

“The knot in the arteries of my heart begins to perform strange noisy acrobatics”, she describes, telling of an old love, whose voice “resounds like the earth”. It is this literary display of emotional vulnerability by Pinkerton that brings this book to a close, showing us our collective and unyielding desire for connection and companionship.

Heartland by Jennifer Pinkerton is published by Allen & Unwin, $32.99.

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