Let's Talk About Sex
A candid debate on today's "hook-up culture."
It's funny how conservatives use the guise of a concerned, moralizing discourse to discuss behaviors that are at once reprehensible yet obviously intriguing to them. When the behavior in question is casual sex among female college students, one can better understand the extraordinary response to Megan O'Rourke's Slate review of Unhooked, a book "about the damage done by hookup culture."
HLS2003 seizes on the inconsistency in O'Rourke's depiction of college students "as both adults and children -- restrictions are refused ("they're adults") but consequences and responsibility is not expected ("aw, they're just kids")." PhysicsGirl rejects the assumption that "hook-up culture" is inherently bad or irresponsible—a puritanical approach to sexuality—while drawing the line at "bringing sex and drugs into the workplace." For Lilitu too, the desire for casual sex does not necessarily start "from an unhealthy point." But yggy bemoans the vicious cycle in which "bad relationships create voids that no amount of sex can fill, although it may offer some reprieve and, thus, motivation" to seek out those quick fixes. Anse expresses distress at the sexual revolution of the 60s gone awry.
the_slasher14 cautions against extrapolating too much from college-age sexual experiences:
Going steady; playing the field; being promiscuous; being celibate. None of it MEANS anything because college is an artificial situation. Similarities to life are there but they aren't what it's REALLY about. The discipline of the workplace is around but is not paramount. Experimentation and trying to find one's way in unfamiliar social situations are what you're SUPPOSED to be doing.
As a general rule (and, never forget, only for a certain class of people -- not all of them), college is the arena in which you meet and learn to interact with the people who will be your peers for the rest of your life. Sex, assuming precautions against pregnancy as successful, is simply another form of that interaction. You may handle it well or you may not, but that's true of a lot of things you do at college. The REAL work of building intimacy with another person doesn't even begin until much later.
Jonathan23, a college student, speaks out from a generational perspective:
I (early 20s, in college) talked to my mom (early 60s) about love and sex at university, including my own experience, the other day. And she really was shocked at the "disposable" culture - a girl will be in love (having sex naturally) one night and out of love the next; many girls will just skip around aimlessly - not 'experimenting', but just drinking themselves silly and letting themselves go. Please don't think that my mother is of the faint-hearted variety, she's '68 generation and lived in a commune in Europe during university... But she was genuinely affected by girls really not getting 'what they want', because of a youth culture (propagated by girls themselves) that pushes them into emotionally detached relations. The answer is not staying in and baking brownies (let's not be ridiculous), but there's something to be said about waking up to the pretty rough reality girls at uni deal with these days. And, no, ce n'est pas la vie.
lynn80 shares this candid reflection on hook-up culture and complains about young women such as herself being caught between two extremes: "After reading feminist literature, it's difficult to see why we shouldn't do as we please. Then we realize that a good portion of society still thinks it is our duty to say 'no' and control relationships in that manner." One detects a hint of regret in topazz's testimonial here about an oldest daughter, currently a junior in college, who "hooked up with a guy freshman year and although he's nice enough, she's never allowed herself to play the field and meet other men. I sense that she doesn't love him, but he's a safe bet."
achilleselbow, in a mini-manifesto entitled Self-Deception, denounces the opportunism on both sides of the debate:
The criticism of hook-up culture more often than not comes from right-wing bible thumpers who couch their agenda in reasonable-sounding rhetoric and scientific studies until the very end, when they suddenly come out with their suggestions - total abstinence until marriage, denunciation of birth control, and other such idiocy. As a result, any criticism along the same lines is suspected of coming from the same source, and feminists have developed a knee-jerk reaction to it. Surely, tolerating some vapid bimbos is better than letting the right-wingnuts push their agenda forward, right?
Why is it so hard to say what everyone knows, namely, that there is an entire world between the two extremes of religiously-enforced abstinence until an arbitrary offical ceremony on the one hand, and random no-holds-barred fucking everything in sight on the other - a world in which, incidentally, the majority of the population lives?
The Highbrow Fray welcomes your contribution. AC … 8:51pm PT
Geoffrey Andersen, co-editor of the Fray, is a law student based in California.