The End of Sex: Chapter 5, Why We Get Boys Wrong: The Emotional Glass Ceiling

November 13, 2013 | Catie

by NeW summer intern Catie Verano, student at Hillsdale College

This week, the Online Book Club is discussing Chapter 5 from “The End of Sex: How Hookup Culture Is Leaving a Generation Unhappy, Sexually Unfulfilled, and Confused About Intimacy.”

One way to examine the hookup culture is by understanding what it means to be a young woman or man in our American culture today. American young men typically have a bad reputation when it comes to sex: they are taught that they want sex all the time. From the Christian perspective, men must deny themselves any indulgence in sex until after marriage. From the secular standpoint, men should entice women into having sex at any time they desire, even if this requires dishonesty. Our culture needs to view men differently and recognize that their gender is highly stereotyped. “What we don’t see much in our culture is an intelligent gender critique for men, by men, on the movie, TV, sex, and porn industries” (100).  Men are also highly likely to become self-fulfilling prophecies:

“Our culture tends to deny, or at least discourage, men and boys from thinking extensively, critically, and in a group of their peers about why they are the way they are, what makes a guy a ‘guy,’ and whether being a ‘guy’ is something to which they truly aspire”( 100).

The sexuality discussion is disproportionately centered around women. The media portrays boy-men who hook up all the time, don’t really have their lives together, speak crudely about women and are vulgar about sex in general. This is the form of masculinity our culture perpetuates.

The stereotype is that men want nothing more than sex, but what if this is wrong? Freitas writes,

“Even if someone does not like hooking up that much, even if he feels ambivalent about sex, and even if what he really wants is a long-term relationship, hookup culture requires him to act like a boy-man who is vulgar on the outside and maybe, maybe, in a Judd-Apatow-movie way, civilizable eventually” (108).

While women are allowed to speak more openly about their dislike of the hookup culture, it has not been socially acceptable for men to vocalize how they truly feel about it. Freitas allowed her male subjects to write truthfully in private, without social pressure from their friends. In her research, it ws difficult for her to find support that men love hooking up. Men and women were alike in feeling insecure, empty, and ambivalent about hookup sex.

“‘I often feel as though I betrayed myself and my values by being physically intimate with someone I do not share emotional intimacy with… I look at hooking up… as signs of my own insecurity” [male response] (110).

Within the hookup culture, there is a lack of communication that breeds insecurity among men. Men often wonder about their sexual performance and the woman’s satisfaction. Hook ups facilitate conversation among friends, rather than honest discussion between partners. Knowing that women typically gossip more than men, a man might feel insecure about his sexual performance and worry that the girl will spread the knowledge of his sexual ineptitude to others.

We are led to believe that all young men are hypersexual by nature and cannot be changed. This false stereotype perpetuates the hookup culture: men believe their masculinity is based on being sex-crazed and reckless. They are also taught that they shouldn’t care about women or relationships. The hook-up culture creates damaged, insecure, and emotionally shallow men. It does not allow them to truly live up to their potential.

“Our view of men and masculinity in American culture is not only deeply flawed and misleading but disastrous for the psyches of young men. It interferes with their ability to mature and develop emotionally as well as to express emotion, to have healthy and fulfilling relationships and sex lives, to communicate emotional pain when the experience it, to feel empathy, and to do all these things without believing that by doing so, they are imperiling their standing as men” (114).

Discussion Questions:

1) As women, how can we encourage men to embrace the kind of masculinity the hookup culture rejects?

2) Do you believe our society should spend more time discussing what it means to be a man? If so, would this conversation also benefit women?

3) What are men like on your campus? Do they reflect the values of the hookup culture?

4) Do gentlemen (who reject the lies of the hookup culture) still exist?

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