Over brunch with a few girlfriends last weekend, a friend spilled the details of her hook-up the night before. We prattled and pressed her for details, until she confessed that she wasn’t even that into him — it was just the evening’s entertainment.
Such is hook-up culture, or at least the type that’s so often castigated by the media.
Recently, The Atlantic said the term “sounds like something people in a bedroom would do with a desktop computer or DVD player, not something they would do with each others’ bodies.” We’ve been told ad nauseum that casual sex threatens serious relationships, demoralizes women or leaves us flat out unhappy with our experiences between the sheets.
These hazards of hook-up culture now constitute Donna Freitas’ book, fresh off the press, called “The End of Sex: How Hookup Culture is Leaving a Generation Unhappy, Sexually Unfulfilled, and Confused About Intimacy.” Freitas makes the routine jabs at casual college sex, but her snappy prose also prescribes a solution: It’s time to stop hooking up. Now.
Respectfully, I disagree.
According to Freitas and other critics of hook-up culture, college breeds a culture where casual sex is king and the traditional date is dead. Kiss your expectations of a proper dinner date goodbye — everybody is just hooking up.
However, the empirical research suggests otherwise: A study from Miriam Hospital’s Centers for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine found that for the average college woman, hook-ups “are experimental and relatively infrequent,” and sociologist Lisa Wade found that only about 15 percent of college students engage in sexual activities more than twice a year.
So most of us are spending a lot more time in bed alone than we care to admit — but we also overestimate how much our peers are hooking up. Wade’s research also found that 77 percent of students believe that our peers are hooking up more than we are.
For those who are hooking up, Freitas claims that this “lifestyle of unemotional, unattached sex” causes anxiety about intimacy: trouble orgasming with a near stranger, negotiating the status of a relationship or making the mystifying choice between leaving after it’s over or staying in the hopes of breakfast in the morning.
To Freitas, these are the spillover effects of hook-up culture, but to me, this sounds like students who communicated their sexual interests with Freitas instead of the people they were sleeping with.
Despite all of the huffing and puffing about hook-up culture, casual sex isn’t the problem. The problem is communication — or rather, lack thereof. It’s not time that we stop hooking up, but it is time to stop hooking up without telling our partners what we want.
How can we figure out where we stand with our partners, expect them to get us off or construct intimate (albeit casual) relationships without open communication? It’s speaking up that adds spice to our sex lives, not commitment or seriousness.
In the interest of full disclosure, I’m hardly the poster girl for hook-up culture, so my prescriptions are not quite personal reflections. My Penn experience has been dominated by two serious relationships and I don’t spend my weekends on the prowl for hook-ups (surprise, surprise) — but then again, neither does Freitas.
Freitas’ solution to the “problem” of the hook-up culture is abstinence and the rise of the traditional date. But the idea that women should still lust after a traditional courtship — dinner, flowers and a kiss on the cheek at the end of the night — doesn’t necessarily provide for communication, either. Sending roses is sweet, but that doesn’t tell me how to make our hook-up hotter and more fulfilling.
My solution is simpler: to be better communicators in our dating and sex lives. Asking for what we want and clearly laying out our interests (“Hey, want to have breakfast tomorrow?”) is what will jolt our sex lives from dismal to dazzling.
Sex isn’t the problem, regardless of whether it’s casual or serious, committed or a one-night stand. Before we set off to complain to researchers like Freitas about the issues in our sex lives, we’d be better off talking to the people we’re in bed with first.
Arielle Pardes is a College junior from San Diego. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow her @pardesoteric. “The Screwtinizer” usually appears every Wednesday.Comments powered by Disqus
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