One of our good commenters (commentators?) who goes by “A Feminist” wrote an intelligent and thoughtful response to my Death of The Boyfriend post that deserves some front-page attention.
I agree with you that people today aren’t necessarily sleeping with a higher quantity of partners, rather just not in bf/gf situations. But I think the “moral outrage” as you call it is much more nuanced than just a judgment of sexual activity. As for that article about “feminist” women choosing to only hook-up after a cost-benefit analysis, that was without doubt a piece of sensationalistic “journalism” that attempted to blanket a whole generation using a few extreme examples, obviously begging for outraged responses of all types. (I say this given that I spent 4 years on that campus. And that career-focused, over-achieving girl? Been there done that.)
Here is a more nuanced analysis of the pros & cons of hooking up, in an interview by (surprise surprise) a feminist who has been vocally supportive of hooking up, but as an expression of choice & experimentation, not as an unavoidable default. In a nutshell, “I have a problem with the culture of hooking up that prescribes it as virtually the only means for sexual intimacy. Because then you’re advocating a norm that’s oppressive. It’s just on the other end of the extreme from ‘people should only be dating.’” As for the argument of whether it’s propagated by men or women, and whether it benefits men or women: “I went into the research assuming, like most people do, that men would be living it up in hookup culture. I was surprised by men who said the same sorts of things the women did. However, what was distinct about the men was they felt they could never, ever say that out loud, whereas women felt they could complain about it in public. Men felt they would risk their masculinity in doing so. Participating in hookup culture is far more about proving yourself on campus to other men than about having sex.”
As Barry Schwartz talks about in “Paradox of Choice,” people respond to an excessive amount of choice through paralysis, constantly regretting the road not taken, and essentially less happiness. Today, we have this perception that sexual choice is limitless. We can be with whomever we want, however we want. But in reality, I think the options of “who” may indeed have expanded greatly, but the options of “how” have shrunken greatly as well. And the end result is that, commensurate with our ADD & tech-driven society, more people have less meaningful relationships with each other, as exemplified in the Salon article about the loss of intimacy. The perception of quantity (if not true quantity) beats out quality. Breadth beats out depth.
To me, hooking up is to human connection what TV is to entertainment. In other words, it’s fun, de-stressing, shallow, and can only take you so far if your goal is true personal growth. We all go through phases when we want to veg out in front of the TV and turn off our brains; ditto for hooking up. But it should only be one of many options to experience human connections, and just indulging in more and more TV, or more and more hooking up, isn’t going to make you grow as a person.
I think there’s a good point to be made that the ADDness of modern society is at least a contributing factor to the Death of the Boyfriend and the breakdown of relationships amongst young people. But the quote she cites from the article is also telling. I’ve cited a bit more here than she does above:
Most people expect young women to complain about hookup culture and really want relationships. I would say that is pretty true, though I would also say that they feel very passionate about retaining the option to hook up, even if they complain about hookup culture.
I went into the research assuming, like most people do, that men would be living it up in hookup culture. I was surprised by men who said the same sorts of things the women did. However, what was distinct about the men was they felt they could never, ever say that out loud, whereas women felt they could complain about it in public. Men felt they would risk their masculinity in doing so. Participating in hookup culture is far more about proving yourself on campus to other men than about having sex.
I find the first paragraph a little bit confusing: young women don’t like hookup culture, but they like the option of hooking up. I suppose you could interpret that statement in two ways; the first being I don’t like hook up culture but I’d prefer it to wearing a scarlet letter for fornicationn, which is completely reasonable and another one being I want to retain the benefits of hooking up while also retaining the benefits of a boyfriend, which is just wanting to have your cake and eat it too.
And the conclusion – not only are women unsatisfied with hookup culture, but so are men. In part, this is likely a product of the sexual dynamics that are created by the Death of The Boyfriend – some guys do better, but more guys do a lot worse. But the other fact is: guys actually want relationships. I see this in my classes all the time – about 90% of guys who take my classes want to be in a relationship within a year. Of course, they want to experience a bit of swinging bachelorhood before that, but very few guys in the seduction scene are averse to relationships. You’d think that Love Systems classes or pick-up communities would have the world’s highest concentration of unrepentant cads, but it’s simply not the case. Yes, there are guys who have decided on a life of permanent bachelorhood, but they’re relatively uncommon (I’d say 10%).
As I said in my last post though, all this points to the hypothesis that the Death of the Boyfriend is a female-driven phenomenon, though I think guys can reverse this trend by getting a better idea of what women want – which I will elaborate in future.