The End of Sex: Chapter 6, The Virginity Excuse and Other Modes for Opting Out of Hookup Culture (Sort of)
by NeW summer intern Catie Verano, student at Hillsdale College
This week, the Online Book Club is discussing Chapter 6 from "The End of Sex: How Hookup Culture Is Leaving a Generation Unhappy, Sexually Unfulfilled, and Confused About Intimacy."
Living as a virgin in the hookup culture can make one feel like an outcast, but it can also serve as a boundary to separate oneself from fully entering the hookup world. That is not to say that men and women do not engage in other sexual activities. Oral sex has become the new form of 'making out' and many still consider themselves virgins after doing so. This allows for men and women to retain their technical status as a virgin, while still appearing sexually active and participating in the hookup culture. By demonstrating some sexual behavior, students can appear casual about sexual activity without pressure from their friends to lose their virginity.
"Approximately 71 percent of the adolescents surveyed considered themselves virgins even after having oral sex, and 16 percent considered themselves virgins after anal sex" (124).
In Freitas' research, she did not find religion as a motivating factor for saving sex for marriage. Many viewed this as an antiquated notion. Interestingly, religion served as a provider of guilt instead of a guide to make wise sexual decisions. Frietas proposes that peer approval is a stronger factor that God's approval when it comes to making decisions about sex, even for those who are religious.
In the hookup culture, virginity is seen as something one offers to someone else, that another person can give or take away. This leads adolescents to believe that once they lose their virginity, their future is determined. In other words,
"Once their virginity is 'gone';-- once they've made this all-important decision and had this once-in-a-lifetime experience-- many young adults typically can't find a good enough reason to stop being sexually active-- even if the sex wasn't good, or they didn't feel good about it" (133).
Many who lose their virginity experience a negative impact on their future sexual decision-making. One man described his experience going from meaningful sex when in a relationship, to a series of hookups. He described himself as being a 'loose cannon' and that he was in a difficult place emotionally and mentally. After these experiences, he resolved to have sex when he was in love with a committed partner.
Virginity offers an excuse to those who wish to hold out for meaningful sex, while still participating in the hookup culture. All of the participants in Freitas's case studies were sexually active to some degree, but hopeful for meaningful sex.
"Virginity-- whether temporary or reclaimed-- is a boundary that many students use to negotiate their own love story of sorts, to hang onto the possibility of love in their future, and this despite hookup culture" (138).
1) How can we eliminate pressure for college students to participate in the hookup culture?
2) Do you agree with Frietas' statement that religion is not a motivating factor when deciding when to engage in sex?