Caroline Brand | From sonnets to sexting
A Brand You Can Trust | My parents still think ‘hook up’ means ‘meet for coffee’ — how our sexual relationships are evolving
February 5, 2013, 12:04 am·
A Brand You Can Trust
While The Beatles may have just wanted to “hold your hand,” Pitbull and Lil Wayne seem to have a different idea about how to pass the time.
Needless to say, we’re no longer in the uber-pure era of sending sonnets and going on “dates” in the home of the courted woman, overseen by her family. A recent piece in the New York Times entitled “The End of Courtship?” accused our generation of replacing dinner dates with casual group hangouts and swapping substantive face-to-face conversations with late-night texting. But how did we get here?
Recently, I reread Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” just in time for its 200th anniversary (it was on the required reading list in high school, but in the midst of orthodontist appointments and trying to look cool in my Abercrombie jean skirt, I think the romantic implications went over my head).
While I can relate to the harmless sibling rivalry and embarrassment about a social faux pas, there is one element of Austen’s novel that seems to be lifted from a different planet: courtship.
Getting to know a prospective mate used to involve dancing together at a ball — sans DFMO (Dance Floor Make-Out). The relationship process was formal and drawn out — definitely not something our generation could submit to. We’ve grown accustomed to instant gratification — email over snail-mail and GrubHub delivery within an hour.
While some mourn the end of the era of boyfriends and girlfriends and dates at Pod, others find the hook-up culture to be less stressful than trying to hold a conversation with someone over the duration of a three-course meal and find it much more conducive to our busy schedules. I recently overheard someone say, “There just aren’t enough open time slots in my G-cal for a boyfriend.”
In the midst of searching for a summer internship, taking midterms, trying to have some semblance of a social life and being involved in nine extracurriculars, is there still time for courtship?
Our more casual attitude toward the opposite sex isn’t the only thing that has changed since 1813 — I haven’t seen anyone doing the waltz or wearing a 19th-century gown lately.
Alex Williams, the author of the New York Times article, shouldn’t be so quick to blame our generation for trading French bistros and flowers for terse texts and 2 a.m. trysts. The hook-up culture didn’t necessarily arise from laziness or loose morals. In some ways, the hook-up culture is just an inevitability of generational changes.
For example, a 2009 study by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that listening to sexually explicit music — an increasingly prevalent trend nowadays — directly influences our sexual behavior.
While correlation doesn’t imply causation, it’s probably true that our behavior in frat houses would be very different if we were listening to Frankie Valli’s “Can’t Take My Eyes off of You” instead of Flo Rida’s “Whistle.”
Alex Williams and our parents might critique our “non-date” hook-up orientation, but can they truly say they’re surprised? We aren’t visiting grandma on a horse-and-buggy anymore or playing records in the living room. If everything else in our world is changing with the times, why wouldn’t our sexual relationships evolve too?
I’m not trying to laud the hook-up culture — if I had it my way, we would have updated the pre-Victorian-era dresses but kept all of the chivalry — although I do think it’s a natural process of society becoming more liberal.
A hookup culture is our generation, just as an academic culture is Penn. I’m finished with looking for someone to blame (although, we should probably stop with the 11 p.m. “what’s up” texts). It’s not anyone’s fault, it’s just 2013.
Caroline Brand is a College junior from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. Her email address is email@example.com. Email her if you like long walks on the beach. Follow her at @CBrand19. “A Brand You Can Trust” appears every other Tuesday.