College kids are “sort of” totally over hooking up. It’s kinda like how they feel about Vera Bradley bags. It’s like, “enough already,” but also they’re pretty reliable and everyone has one, so…
This topic came up thanks to an article Chicago reader Laura sent my way (thanks LL!).
I hadn’t really thought about it for awhile, so I didn’t know how much I thought they did or didn’t like it. Luckily Donna Frietas has been thinking about essentially just that for the past I-don’t-know-how-many years because she wrote a whole book about the issue. It’s called The End of Sex
– which is a little misleading because it’s actually about how the prevalence of casual sex has left a generation, “unhappy, sexually unfulfilled, and confused about intimacy. So really she should have called it The End of Good Sex
, but probably nobody buys that book, right?
Here are the greatest highlights from this pretty great article:
- “[Frietas’] book analyzes 2,500 surveys from 11 colleges and finds that casual sex is perceived by students as the only romantic option on campus these days – and that actually bums a majority of them out.” So by “only romantic option” they mean dating is not possible nor is courting. The only way to have romance is to have casual sex? My follow-up would have been, “how romantic is the casual sex you’re having, exactly?” Because the sadder part of this may be that kids these days consider drunk hook-ups in an XL twin “romantic.”
- “College students learn from the media, their friends, and even their parents that it’s not sensible to have long-term relationships in college. College is a special time in life-they will never get the chance to learn so much, meet so many people, or have as much fun again.” I can’t disagree with this feeling. In fact, I rode it through most of my twenties. “Now is the time to be independent, not tied down.” The only problem is that if you never learn how to be “not” independent, you have trouble getting into and sustaining a relationship. It’s a little bit of a catch 22, so I do understand the conflict.
- “Students play their parts-the sex-crazed frat boy, the promiscuous, lusty coed-and they play them well. But all too often they enact these highly gendered roles for one another because they have been taught to believe that hookup culture is normal, that everyone is enjoying it, and that there is something wrong with them if they don’t enjoy it, too.” So peer pressure in college extends to everything, including sex. Makes sense.
- “Today’s younger generation learns quickly and learns well that the norm is to be casual about sex-even though so many of them don’t fit this “norm.” Parents and educational institutions unwittingly promote this idea. Because we worry about the perils of casual sex among teens-unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and, for some constituencies, sin and God’s disapproval-the very people who should be mentoring young men and women about the pleasures and joys of good sex instead focus on its dangers.” Fascinating and true. Likelihood of this changing? Probably about as good as peer pressure ceasing to exist.
- “Moreover, the campus culture-along with the wider culture-has become more superficial with the advance of technology. A frenetic go-go-go and do-do-do pace, increasing in the midst of an economic recession, has put young adults under ever more pressure. They are competing with each other for fewer and fewer jobs, but burdened with greater and greater expectations of success. Such pressure can breed stress, anxiety, and even selfishness, all of which are aided and abetted by technologies that allow us to text rather than call, and to interact superficially and efficiently, with broad swaths of “friends” and followers, through Facebook and Twitter, rather than engage in meaningful interactions face to face with other human beings. This pace and pressure coincide with the attitudes toward others fostered by hookup culture. Rather than looking at the people right in front of us, we look at our phones, preferring to touch a screen rather than the hand of a partner.” This is perhaps the most fascinating and yet least surprising detail of all. Cultural changes come from cultural shifts, and this shift certainly makes sense in terms of the greater attitudes of today’s college generation.
So now what? I don’t know. Sadly with issues like these it usually takes a tragedy (date rape?) or wide-spread problem (AIDS spread?) for institutions to get involved with education. For my part, I have younger sisters still in college – maybe you do too? I think I’ll tell them that I hooked up very little in college and was very happy and fulfilled. After college I hooked up a bit more, and it wasn’t very romantic or fulfilling. To each their own, of course, but college students should know that they have options, and that what makes them most comfortable is always the best of those options.
From the sounds of this article, they’ve lost sight of that fact...