This time from NPR, of all places. Morning Edition had a piece on the dreaded “hook-up culture” today, and it’s more of the same handwringing and boo-hooing and it’s so sloppy and lazy and crappy and unhelpful that I just wanna barf.
Read the full article, Sex Without Intimacy: No Dating, No Relationships (or listen to the story), if you want to take a look at how it’s all laid out, but I wanted to pull out a few small points. It starts out with some absolutist moral panic:
For the many who are delaying the responsibilities of marriage and child-rearing, hooking up has virtually replaced dating.
ZOMG. No more dating! Not enough babies!! Marriage rates falling precipitously!!! Eleventyone!!!!
And then it goes on to interview a number of people about their perspectives on this “trend.” Most of these people are women—academics studying dating, or young college- or post-college-aged women—because the freaking out going on here is about, you guessed it, women’s sexuality (a bad, horrible thing that’s spinning out of controooooooooooollll!). But there’s one dude in there, whose input made me want to fling my Wheaties out the window:
Avery Leake, 25, knows what this is like from the other side. He’s in a relationship now, but he says that, in general, most of the young women he used to meet “just wanted sex. They’re independent.” Being in a relationship was not important to them, especially if it interfered with their careers or their pursuit of advanced degrees, he says.
Leake found that he was also up against women who had as much money as he had, if not more, and he says dating had just become too expensive. “You used to be able to get away with paying $30 for a dinner and a movie,” Leake says. “Not anymore.”
“Up against women…”? “Get away with“? (This is where Shark-Fu would type: “Blink.”)
OH NOES! WOMEN HAVE THEIR OWN MONEY! THE PRICE OF THE PUSSY HAS RISEN ABOVE $30!!!
Some of this is journalistic framing, of course, but come. on. There is also at least one quote within the piece that tempers the alarmist trumpeting of the title:
The term “hookup” is so vague, however, it might well encompass someone’s idea of virginity — it involves anything from kissing to fooling around, oral sex and sexual intercourse.
I’m happy they included this, because it might go some way to deprivileging PIV intercourse as “sex,” but the article as a whole does nothing to destroy the zombie idea of sex as a wary transaction between women and men (because we don’t give a shit about lesbians and gay men; they can’t get married anyway, and that’s What Life is All About).
Apart from that, however, one thing that really bothered me about this story was that it seemed to define hook-up culture as meeting strangers, screwing them, and blowing town, never to see them again. And while one-night stands do happen, they are not an invention of the ’00s. Or the ’90s. Or even the ’60s.
But more importantly, there’s an assumption here that either you follow the traditional model of dating (whatever that is…although soda shoppes are probably involved), or you’re out there whoring it up, you whore. There’s no consideration for the fact that a lot of people who hook up are probably doing so with people they already know: friends, friends of friends, and/or people they have already hooked up with before. And you know what those are called? RELATIONSHIPS. Even if they’re the kind that don’t necessarily lead to marriage.
I guess there will never be a time when someone isn’t freaking out about “kids today.” The post-war model of dating was to go out with a lot of different people, rather than pairing off into “steady” couples, and compared to the courtship model of the early twentieth century, where relationships were largely exclusive, chaperoned, and marriage-targeted, they were anxiety-producing. By the time I was doing all my high school and college dating in the 1990s, the model that was freaking everyone out then was “young people are settling into serious relationships too fast and therefore will fail to learn how to get along with a lot of different types of people and also they might be having the sex!” one. And yet, all around me were people, some in long term relationships, others celibate, and still more passing each other around like joints at a party.
It’s almost like people were making choices that best suited their temperaments and needs.
I’m an old unmarried lady, not a part of this hook up culture, so I can’t give you any soundbites about how it is today in the lookin’-for-a-good-time department (me and the Dude like a free-pizza Happy Hour, or a good pub quiz), but I keep seeing this intense concern with “intimacy,” or rather the “loss of intimacy,” and it’s making my butt itch.
My butt is incredibly sensitive to bad logic, so I think there’s some collapsing going on here. We use the term “intimacy” to mean “sex” a lot of times, but we also use it to mean “emotional closeness,” or “trust,” or “commitment.” I’m down with emotional closeness. I’m a big fan of trust. And commitment is only as good as what one is committed to. In any case, however, to assume that sexual activity either IS intimacy (as it is conceived of in marriage), or that it is a BARRIER TO intimacy (as it is in hook up culture) is false, false, false.
There are people with whom I am intimate who have never been sexual with me. I trust faaaaaaar more people than I’ve ever fooled around with (and yeah, that’s saying something). And I am committed to more than just my Dude.
The word that doesn’t come up at all in this article is “respect.” Respect for yourself to say yes when you want and no when you don’t, respect for your partner/s (hook-up, “dating,” partnered, married, whatever) to listen to and honor their wishes about consent and desire, and respect for both of you when it comes to pregnancy- and disease-prevention. Seems like such a simple thing, y’know? And yet we can’t seem to focus on making that the issue. Not when there are women to be shamed!
I’m not saying sexual and/or emotional relationships are simple; they’re not. But if we were actually interested in people’s–especially women-people’s–sexual and emotional health and wellness, we’d quit frothing over whether women are entering into traditional marriages and having sufficient numbers of babies, throw out this “intimacy” bulllshit, and encourage everyone to govern themselves and treat others with respect. Goddamn.
P.S. The comments are variously appalling or just plain ol’ stupid. Seriously, don’t read ‘em. There is, however, a poll where you can lodge your opinion of hook up culture. As of this writing, it’s a tie between “Fun” and “Degrading,” with “Dangerous” a close second. Jeesh.