Freedom from Hookups

July 19th, 2013

sexycouple3resized“Romantic goals change from finding boyfriends to finding hook up buddies…a guy we don’t actually really like, but we think he is really attractive and hot and good in bed.”  -Student at U of Penn

I was in the liquor store yesterday, choosing between flavors of my favorite  Clear Creek brandies  when I went on to share my excitement about my purchase with the two 20 something guys behind the counter.  I said “this stuff  can really bring fire to a kiss and heat up your intimate life…”  To which he responded  “ I don’t have an intimate life.”   His co-worker joined in the conversation adding  “yeah being in love is so ten minutes ago.”    “But this is the time of your life for falling in love, I argued  this is what the 20s are for.”   Apparently not for this generation.

The death of love and romance for our youth is not really news.  I have been witnessing the diminishing numbers of kids choosing to partner for over a decade within my own kids.   They were among a small minority of their peers in high school that had steady boy and girl friends.  As singles at the University, they both reported how dating was dead.   This generation of college students don’t believe in romance, how could they when everyone they know is hooking up.   This new form of relationship is actually just sex without the relationship. One girl was quoted  in the NY Times report  said “ten years from now I won’t remember who I slept with… but I will remember what is on my transcript….”  The idea that early sexual partners will not even register in long term memory reflects just how deeply cut off our youth is from the essence of what it means to be an intimate human.

While we have long attributed this kind of unattached, no responsibility sex drive to young men, now young women also report not wanting to get attached or have to be responsible to another’s needs or feelings.   They are too ambitious, too busy, too driven by their own goals to want “the complications” of love.  This trend does not bode well for us as a culture.   Not only because it reduces the magical connection of sexuality down to convenience store practices which generally require a stop at the convenience store to get drunk enough to follow through.  Statistically drunk sex is does not  make for very good sex either.  Orgasm rates for women are below 10 % and not surprisingly, guys who are hooking up are not that concerned with the woman’s sexual satisfaction.  In addition the lines of consent and desire blur in drunken hooking up such that it is not uncommon to walk away wondering if it was sexual abuse that took place instead.  It is hard to keep your self-respect in tact.

No one is talking about the emotional damage that incurs when young people initiate themselves sexually with repeated loveless interludes and come to believe that the real thing, of having someone love you and make love to you is archaic, not possible, not available,  Instead we spin a cultural story about individual achievement being the primary source of satisfaction and promote the very mixed experience of being alone as a freedom from the weight and responsibility of relating.  In actuality individual achievements run dry fast when they are not shared by people who care for us and the richest, most rewarding and developmentally important work we do with this life is learning the challenging ways of loving others at least as much as we love ourselves.   It is not an accident that this generation of youth wants little to do with the  monogamy and long term intimacy practices they have witnessed growing up.   How do we teach the critically important lessons of how choosing love over convenience frees us to become our best selves and that even the experience of a broken heart is worthy of our attention because it is how we become compassionate.

The fabric of our lives is based in our relationships.  Culturally we are at a crossroads and a reckoning.  Can we bear witness to the shredding fabric in our families, communities and youth culture without recognizing what is most truly human in us is being lost.   We need to rehabilitate the concept of loving relationships and commit to providing comprehensive skill development in the practices that bring our desire and ability to relate back to the center of our lives.  The future without has no soul.

5 Responses to “Freedom from Hookups”

  1. Harold Says:

    It is not surprising that kids are seeking their satisfaction from their achievements instead of from their relationships considering how few relationships work very well. Being married myself for almost 50 years and where most of the people I know have also been in very long term marriages, the operating word for all of them would be committed, but very difficult, often painful relationships. Certainly the couples like each other in many ways, share their lives with each other, have good decent families, but I also see their relationships requiring great personal adjustment. It seems the kids you are talking about don’t see the value in all that adjustment. They want their lives to be less complicated, more straightforward, and they look for it and find it in their work. For the friends that I have, the men also find that freedom and enjoyment in their work. I think we all appreciate our partners and the lives we have, but our relationships are certainly not care free. We find much greater control in our work than in our relationships. The lack of that sense of control is uncomfortable at best for most people.

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  3. Rhys Says:

    I understand your concern here to be primarily for a lack of intimate emotional connection to the partner someone is sleeping with (‘romance’). While I would agree that emotional connection- a depth of relationship that goes beyond sexual encounters- is a lovely and important thing, you seem to be conflating a lack of what you’re calling ‘romance’ and nonmonogamy. What you wrote in the post makes it sound as though all individuals (particularly young ones) that engage in casual sexual encounters have no respect for or interest in a committed, sustained relationship. By making this assertion, you are ignoring two groups of people: those who pursue casual encounters and look forward to finding someone with whom to build a relationship, and those who are in a connected relationship and engage in casual sexual encounters anyways. (I’m thinking of people who do this with the full knowledge and consent of their partner, though I know this is not the case for everyone who has sex outside of a committed relationship). There’s nothing inherently wrong with casual sexual encounters- they can provide a beautiful opportunity to make an intimate connection to another person that is enjoyable, exploratory and temporary- and not all relationships (or people, at any or all points of their lives) must or should trend towards becoming a committed, monogamous relationship.

  4. KH Says:

    Rhys,
    I respectfully disagree with your statement that a casual hookup is an opportunity for a tbeautiful but temporary thing. The connection you speak of during these encounters is not a connection at all, as you cannot connect with someone whom you do not know. Instead, what that “connection’ really is is fantasy. What both people are doing during a casual hookup is fantasizing, and merely employing another’s body as the vehicle to bring that fantasy into the physical world.

    In Aldoux Huxley’s novel Brave New World he predicted a future wherein we have “improved” ourselves out of meaningful romantic relationships. Sad and scary to see the Brave New World upon us.

  5. Qiana Says:

    I love your blog every week but in particular, thank you for writing this. I too was appalled by the article in the NYTimes and couldn’t believe how many other people thought it was ‘not news.’

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