Sunday, November 22, 2009

Feminism and Hookup Culture: The New Boogey Monster

As promised in a previous post, I wanted to address something that my students talked about recently during current events. I do not typically write very much about my classes, teaching, students, etc., because I do not consider it essential to my political commentary. Indeed, I usually see my political commentary, or even my cultural commentary, as an escape from the classroom, not its embodiment. I could go into why and my motivations for keeping my classes ideology-free, but it would be a separate post entirely. Suffice it to say, I have always believed in showing different perspectives to students and letting them decide for themselves what to think.

All of that said, what interested me about my class this past week was that it concerned a hot button issue on college campuses throughout this country--namely, feminism and modern dating and the prevalence of "hookup" culture (i.e., the increasing number of people having casual sexual encounters without expectation of a relationship or marriage). Chances are, if you are currently in college or read about the lives of college students today, they are typically portrayed as a nonstop orgy. In reality, students are no different now than when I was in college or my parents/grandparents generation.

The problem is what young people hear about themselves is oftentimes negative. We are constantly hearing about oral sex parties, hookup culture, sex without dating and love, and with that the degeneration of women in our sex-obsessed society. If one did not know any better, it would seem every 16-24 year old in this country was training to be the next Caligula. Here is but one example of this hysteria, with the obligatory blame-the-feminists-for-having-sex explanation.

Assessing feminism’s results: the hook-up culture

This must-read ABC news story should help to open some eyes. (H/T Muddling Towards Maturity)

Canadian filmmaker Sharlene Azam interviews some young people about the quality of their relationships in the brave new world of feminism.


“Five minutes and I got $100,” one girl said. “If I’m going to sleep with them, anyway, because they’re good-looking, might as well get paid for it, right?”

Another girl talked about being offered $20 to take off her shirt or $100 to do a striptease on a table at a party.

The girls are almost always from good homes, but their parents are completely unaware, Azam said.


“I think there’s very much trading for relationship favors, almost like ‘you need to do this [to] stay in this relationship,’” one girl told “Good Morning America.”

“There’s a lot of social pressure,” said another. “Especially because of our age, a lot of girls want to be in a relationship and they’re willing to do anything.”


“I mean, we’re not looking for our future husbands,” one girl said. “We’re just looking for, maybe like … at our age, especially, I think all of us, both sexes, we have a lot of urges, I guess, that need to be taken care of. So if we resort to a casual thing, no strings attached, it’s perfectly fine.”

Azam said she thinks the “no strings attached” romances could be a defense mechanism against a greater disappointment.

“A lot of girls are disappointed in love,” she said. “And I think they believe they can hook up the way guys do and not care.

Why feminism is to blame

It was feminism that sought to replace fathers with government social programs. Feminism that raised taxes to provide social safety nets for women who could not be bothered to choose boyfriends wisely. Feminism that instituted no-fault divorce to encourage women to divorce men for money. And feminism that pushed women out of the home via high tax rates, so that children would be indoctrinated by left-wing public schools.

Let me be clear: the Democrat party is anti-family. Their policies destroy love, marriage and parenting. The secular-marxist-feminist left wants to control people. Free market capitalism, the family and robust religious beliefs are obstacles to their fascist goals. Feminism opposes the family, secularism opposes the integration of faith and public actions, and marxism opposes free market capitalism – the ground of liberty itself.

I think that young people are uninformed/unwise/un-parented enough to believe that these experiences are not scarring them emotionally. I am a man and growing up I knew intuitively that sexual intimacy with women followed by separation would be a catastrophe emotionally. The only way to properly assess the opposite sex is by keeping clear of their insecure, godless, soulless, clutching arms. Physical contact kills objectivity.

Young people are the most shallow people in the world. They judge people on appearances, and they try to use people to make themselves happy. Christian young people are not taught to view relationships as alliances made for the benefit of God’s purposes in the world. Instead, young people don’t know whether God exists, what he is like, and how to involve his goals and character in their decision making.

When I was a young man, I dreamed about romance, courtship, poetry, roses, marriage and lifting up my children in front of my face. I made decisions to prepare for that vision: chastity, investing, frugality, studying theology and apologetics, etc. I made sure that I could satisfy the demands of being a husband and father. I spent equal time on computer science, to make money, and on Christianity, to gain knowledge, wisdom and character.

I would say that the vast majority of young people today repudiate that vision of family with their actions. Their morality is moral relativism. Their epistemology is postmodernism. Their purpose in life is hedonism. This is not liberating. On the contrary: their actions removed their ability to marry, relate to a spouse and parent children. The more Christianity retreats, the more atheist “morality” steps in.

If atheism is true, then there is no real way we ought to be. Each person struggles with others to secure feelings of happiness. Other people don’t have any purpose except to be forced to make us happy. There is no morality. There is no free will. There is no moral accountability. There is no ultimate significance. There is no purpose. And children, born and unborn, are the biggest victims of all.

When not blaming equality for turning women into 'whores' and making guys into thrill seekers (the burden, then and now, has always been greater for women when being judged on these matters), there is the inevitable holy response, to save us all from becoming well done steaks for Satan in the afterlife.

Seriously, what is worse, being told that you are anti-family for having sex or having your parents browbeat you into giving a purity pledge that you will not be hooking up with anyone before marriage? Of course, if we used our common sense, we would realize that this is foolish because humans (while evolving) have always had it in us to reproduce and enjoy partaking in the behavior the process is associated with. The Old Testament would put Maury Povich and Jerry Springer to shame. As it turns out, the kids coerced by their religious parents into purity parties and sporting their vestal virgin rings announcing that they are not doing it are actually more likely to be promiscuous. Go figure.

None of this should come as a surprise. Think back to when you were a teenager, dear reader, and when you were dating on a Friday/Saturday night. Were you playing Parcheesi? No more or less than today's kids. But you would never believe it if you took seriously what some cultural commentators were writing about the youngins of today.

All of this gets back to the constant bashing of young people as morally challenged deviants, killing their youth with sex. I would concede that young people today, the millennials (or Gen Y) certainly have some different approaches. When I was in high school, we did not have the shocker, and porn was not as readily available. And I concede that pornography has changed things to the extent it has sexualized our culture in ways that were not as widespread into the 1990s. Nevertheless, students are not reinventing the wheel. Just read Sappho's poetry from 2,600 years ago. We are merely spinning around the wheel, periodically rediscovering all that our species has been doing for the previous 50,000 years.

In addition, college students are not being anymore whorish than they were years ago. The difference now, apparently, is that sex is often seen as an introduction to a relationship, not the culmination of one. And not surprisingly, there is a split between the second and third wave feminists about whether or not this is a good thing.

Hooking Up for Sex: Sluts or New Feminists?

Debate at Harvard University Asks if Hooking Up is Degrading or Liberating


"Today's first base is kissing ... plus fondling this and that. Second base is oral sex. Third base is going all the way. Home plate is learning each other's names."

So wrote Tom Wolfe in his 2000 book "Hooking Up" -- a term that describes a wide range of coupling from making out to intercourse.

For more than a decade, the "hookup" has been an integral part of the American college experience -- a result of the increased permissiveness that came with the sexual revolution of the 1970s.

Just recently at Harvard University -- sometimes pegged as "godless and liberal" -- the hookup culture came under fire, mostly from a small but growing abstinence group called True Love Revolution.

They argue that women who invoke a new kind of feminism -- the right to have sex whenever and with whomever they choose -- is demeaning to women.

"A popular thing to say among this intellectual crowd, in the ivies and in feminism in general, is to say that sex is empowering and a real woman uses her sexuality in any way she pleases," said Rachel Wagley, a 20-year-old sociology student who is TLR's co-president. "It's blatantly false and a lie that this culture tells to girls for their own benefit." Silpa Kovvali, a 21-year-old computer science concentrator, argued in a Harvard Crimson editorial that there is nothing "inherently degrading" about engaging in casual sex -- in fact, she said, it can be "empowering."

But chastity groups seem to be on to something -- a growing unease that although hooking up can be liberating, it can also be annoying and sometimes destructive.

"It's a huge part of life here," said Maariya Bajwa, a senior at the University of Florida. "When I used to take the bus I'd hear random people having conversations about random hook ups they had. I was like, 'Uh guys, we're on a bus. I don't need to hear about your one-night stands.'"

By the end of senior year, the average college student has had 6.9 hookups, mostly after a "good bit of drinking," according to a survey of 4,000 students at five universities by Stanford University sociology professor Paula England.

Her research appeared as a chapter, "Hooking Up and Forming Romantic Relationships in Today's College Campuses," in the 2008 book, "The Gendered Society Reader" by Oxford University Press.

Her work revealed that while 24 percent of the respondents had reported never having hooked up, 28 percent had more than 10 such casual sexual encounters.

England, who set out to explore the dating habits of college students, found they were kissing, having oral sex and sometimes intercourse with "no expectation that either party has an interest in moving toward a relationship."

"There's a lot of degrading treatment of some women and it is empoweringly free for other women," she told

Hooking Up Serves Men Better Than Women

The sexual revolution began with the advent of the birth control pilll in the 1960 and legalization of abortion in 1973, for the first time allowing women to have sex without fear of pregnancy.

But while feminist thinking about equal opportunity in the workplace blossomed, it didn't take root in the "personal sphere," according to England.

"First, men initiate more of the interaction, especially the sexual action," she wrote. "Second, men have orgasms more frequently than women. Men's sexual pleasure seems to be prioritized. Third, a sexual double standard persists in which women are more at risk than men of getting a bad reputation for hooking up with multiple partners."

Students seem well aware of the double standard, one that lingered long after women began to strive for equality in the work force.

"When girls sleep with multiple people on different occasions, she is labeled as a 'slut' or 'whore,' but when guys hook up with multiple girls they're seen as heroes to the male race," said Rachel Sloane, a senior at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.

"As long as she isn't taking advantage of the other person, why shouldn't she have that right?" she asked.

Sloane said hooking up "represents a certain freedom that many people did not experience while they were in high school."

Still, she said she has "great respect" for people like Wagley who choose celibacy. "It shows a great amount of control during a time when pressure to have sex and 'experiment' with one's sexuality is at its peak."

But others -- even those who embrace a woman's right to choose, say the hooking-up culture can be oppressive.

"I think the hook-up culture certainly dominates the social scene," said Caitie Yaeger, a 21-year old junior at Pennsylvania's Dickinson College. "It seems like you go to a party to get drunk, you get drunk to flirt with someone, and you flirt with someone to go home with them."

"I think many women my age might agree, feminism supports a woman's ability to make decisions for herself," she told, "to engage in sexual activity or not to engage in sexual activity, to stay at home with her children or to be a working mother." But, according to Yaeger, free-wheeling sex when done for the "wrong reasons" doesn't always lead to fulfillment or a relationship.

And some say the hook-up culture -- though exaggerated in the media -- has done little to advance equality for women, according to Brandon McGinley, who is president of Princeton University's two-year-old Anscombe Society, which promotes chastity.

"I think there's a stereotype of people having rampant sex every night," said McGinley.

But still, the problem is significant enough that his group has proposed a "safe haven" for students who are not comfortable with the hooking-up scene.

"The perception of sexual conduct puts the pressure on students," he told "They believe their peers are having more sex than they are."

He doesn't disagree that women have a right to their own sexual decision making.

"But it's not a question of one's right, but what one ought to do," he said.

"What we see in the hook-up culture is the general ethos toward the sexual objectification of a person. And that is problematic for both men and women and harmful for society in general."

But Pepper Schwartz, who teaches sociology and sex at University of Washington and survived the antics of two college students, isn't too worried about the long-lasting effects of hooking up.

"Before, guys did this gross kind of sexual behavior, and we said, 'Boys will be boys,' but now it's boys and girls," she told "Let's hope they grow out of it.

"It's a period of flexing their muscles and they will look back and say, 'Oh, God, what was I thinking?' They have the permission I didn't have in my generation to act out, get drunk at frat parties and hook up with somebody."

As long as students are protected against disease and pregnancy, said Schwartz, "they can do these things without impact."

"And I hear," she said, "it's a lot less salacious than it sounds."

ABC News on Campus reporter Adam Yosim contributed to this report.

What I find interesting about this debate, and some of my students were making many of the same points in this article, why is this always being put on the female? It is easy to say sex and hooking up benefits men and that males are by nature the aggressors, but why is the judgmentalism, even from the second wave feminists, being put on women and not men? Why do we have to defend or degrade women as sluts or liberated when it comes to hooking up? I suppose if one operated from the assumption that men are the only ones wanting or initiating all of this, then yes maybe so, but I can attest from my days in high school and college that this is not the case anymore (my first girlfriend in high school asked me out and was the aggressor, not the other way around). And one cannot assume that women are only responding to the sexual demand of men. That is what bothers me. The entire debate is still gendered in our assumptions about how/why the sexes behave the way they do (with the stereotype [from religionists and a few feminists] being that women are objectified victims, even when they initiate the encounter, and all men are sex addicts and future profiles on MSNBC's Lockup).

And while I am not sure if I would say 'hooking up' is a liberating thing (for men or women), even if consensual, what place is it for me to say a person is suffering from false consciousness and is really repressing herself and only conforming to what men want? Has it ever occurred to anyone that men may not want to have endless hookups, either? One person's degradation is another person's freedom. It may surprise people to know, but all of us (male and female) share virtually the same DNA. We should not be socially-constructed prisoners to the 0.1% of our biology that we do not share. If we are going to have this 'hook up' culture, we should judge men and women the same, which means if we are to judge ourselves as sluts and whores, then we should all share in this newfound evil, or if we are to be seen as liberated then we should all think of ourselves as such (so long as it is consensual). For whatever it is worth, I am in the latter camp.

No comments: