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The End of Sex: Chapter 3, Opting In to a Culture of Casual Sex

October 30, 2013 | Catie

by NeW summer intern Catie Verano, student at Hillsdale College

This week, the Online Book Club is discussing Chapter 3 from “The End of Sex: How Hookup Culture Is Leaving a Generation Unhappy, Sexually Unfulfilled, and Confused About Intimacy.”

Feminists who believe the hookup culture to be empowering for women may be confused to learn that women are more likely to give pleasure than to receive it during a hookup. In one case study, Freitas discovered that:

“Susan thought that girls were more desperate to please men than men were to please women, more desperate for a relationship than men were, and more likely than men to hope that a hookup might turn into something long term, even though this expectation went against the social contract of the hookup” (57).

Regardless of what statistics show about the frequency of sex and hookups, women and men are still playing their traditional roles. The woman wants commitment and a relationship and the man is less interested.

Mainstream women have bought into the notion perpetuated by radical feminists that casual, meaningless sex is empowering and healthy.

“[My college friends] are constantly warning me about guys getting too attached, or keeping myself at a distance. They advise me to hold my cards close and play them strategically to get what I want” (60).

In private, however, women reveal that the hookup culture leaves them feeling emotionally empty, used, and ambivalent about sex. Women train themselves to be distant and hardened, and try to use sex for their advantage. They play the game but are ultimately unsatisfied and unhappy. Despite this, women continue to fake a smile and soldier on, ironically reminiscent of the 1950s unhappy housewife.

There is a strong perception that everyone is casual about sex in college. But when Freitas studied what the individual college student thought about sex, this perception proved to be off-base. In Freitas’ research, she found that:

“For Maggie, the passage from virginity into post-virginity meant losing all the romanticism she had once had about love, commitment, meaning, emotional intimacy, and communication. Hookup culture requires that students become hardened about sex, dropping all those needs and hopes they may have had about its potential romantic dimensions” (62).

While this is certainly not the case for everyone when they lose their virginity, it is often the case when one loses it through a hookup. After losing her virginity, Maggie felt there was no turning back; sex from that point forward was not as meaningful.

Sex in the hookup culture just happens. There usually isn’t a lot of thought behind it. This hookup culture facilitates irresponsible behavior among students.

“By understanding that having sex is ‘just what college students do,’ Allison was able to feel less actively responsible for her own decisions around sex and to convince herself that she was only going with the flow” (71).

Do we really want a culture where no one is responsible when it comes to sex? Isn’t that exactly what we need to combat? Hookup culture is detrimental; it facilitates fatherless families, unintended pregnancies, sexual assault, and STDs. If most participants are unhappy and unsatisfied, why is the hookup culture so dominant across our campuses?

Discussion Questions:

1) Do you believe most students on your campus are truly casual about sex?

2) Whether from personal experience or through observation, do you believe that once a girl loses her virginity she becomes more casual about sex? Or engages in more meaningless sex? Why or why not?

3) Does Freitas’ research reflect the opinions of students on your campus?

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