Love in the time of ‘settling’ : forbidden knowledge and modern singles advice

Document Type

Journal article

Source Publication

Journal of Sociology

Publication Date



Advance online publication


Sage Publications Ltd.


courtship, dating, forbidden knowledge, Hong Kong, reality TV, romantic love ideal, singles


While there has been much feminist criticism over recent discourses that stigmatize single women, little is known about how women actually consume and respond to the advice prescribed in this discourse. This article addresses this shortcoming by looking at a controversy that emerged in Hong Kong over a popular television show that dispensed dating advice to single women. Based on focus group discussions about the show with 39 unwed women, we examine how women negotiate sexist modern dating advice in relation to their normative views about courtship. Using analogies drawn from the sociology of science, we argue that modern dating advice is constructed by our informants as forbidden knowledge, that is, knowledge that is considered too sensitive, dangerous or taboo to produce. By rendering the laws of attraction mysterious or unknowable, our informants continue to search for romantic partners, while bracketing the sexism that they encounter. The implications for agency and choice in this positioning are discussed.



Print ISSN




Publisher Statement

Copyright © 2017, © SAGE Publications. Access to external full text or publisher's version may require subscription.

Full-text Version

Publisher’s Version

Recommended Citation

Groves, J. M. & Chan, A. H.-n. (2017). Love in the time of ‘settling’: Forbidden knowledge and modern singles advice. Journal of Sociology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1177/1440783317721351