The End of Sex: Chapter 8, Opting Out of Hookup Culture via The Date

December 4, 2013 | Catie

by NeW summer intern Catie Verano, student at Hillsdale College

This week, the Online Book Club is discussing Chapter 8 in “The End of Sex: How Hookup Culture Is Leaving a Generation Unhappy, Sexually Unfulfilled, and Confused About Intimacy.”

Freitas discovered in her research that traditional dating among young adults is rare, if not entirely outdated. Some students feel like the hookup culture dictates that dating would no longer be an available option, only serial hookups that might eventually lead to a relationship. One female student gave a  possible explanation for this phenomenon:

“People feel that when they are drunk they don’t have to worry about what they are doing… that they don’t have as big a chance of rejection ” (159).

Perhaps the notion that ‘nobody dates on this campus’ has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Nobody tries to date because they think no one else wants to date.  The problem is not the lack of desire, but the pressure everyone feels from the hookup culture. The hookup culture does not foster those kinds of relationships, or even romance.

“A senior at a secular university theorized that even though dating was uncommon at her school, it wasn’t that people didn’t want to date, it was just that dating in a traditional sense was not available on their campus” (163).

When Freitas asked her subjects to give a description of their idea of romance, it hardly included physical intimacy. In fact, the descriptions they gave were opposite of the kind of interaction occurring in a hookup. What they want, as it would appear, is everything the hookup culture rejects.

“Many students also felt embarrassed about their romantic yearnings, especially men…Students believed they were living in a time when they should no longer need such gestures and symbols. They had gotten the message that they should be beyond romance, having been ‘liberated’ from such traditional expectations and hopes” (165).

Educating teens about sex should not be limited to health hazards, but should focus on empowering students to assert their values and expectations of romance. Only focusing on sex and neglecting a student’s social life and dating reinforces that dating is obsolete. Students do not know how to date or create circumstances that accurately express their romantic feelings outside a drunken party.

“Failing to pass on the how-to’s of communication around basic romantic interest only reinforces such problems and the hookup culture that goes along with them” (168).

Kelly Cronin, director of the Lonergan Institute at Boston College opened a panel for discussion called “Take Back the Date.” She and her colleagues prepared themselves to answer theological, moral and philosophical questions about sex, but the questions were far more basic: “How do you ask someone out?,” “Where do you go on a date?,” and “Who pays?” Cronin assigned her students that following semester to ask someone out on a date. The reactions were riddled with anxiety, ranging from “I don’t know how to do that,” “People will think I’m strange,” and “I can’t think of anyone I’d like to go out with.” Innocent dating was clearly outside the norm. Eventually, students actually started using the assignment as an excuse to ask out someone with whom they’d actually want to go on a date.

“Dating lessons could offer students a way of approaching one another on a less explicit, less alcohol-soaked, less high-risk, and more nuanced, engaged level… Shifting the attitude on campus from no one ever dates here to, at the very least, some people do date here, could lead to more students experiencing sex that is good, empowering, pleasurable, connective, and constructive to their self-esteem and relationships with others down the road” (177).

Perhaps this would discourage the dominance of hookups on campus, and encourage other types of romantic interaction among students.

Discussion Questions:

1) What would you approximate the percentage was for dating compared to hookups on your campus?

2) Why do you think traditional dating has become so rare on the majority of campuses?

3) Do you think dating lessons would be useful? Do you think anyone would use what they learn?

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