The High Cost of Hooking Up

A recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education entitled “Hooking Up: What Educators Need to Know” seeks to instruct college administrators about the grand child of the Sexual revolution–“The Hook Up Culture.”

Despite most commentators’ lamentations about the death of courtship and their concern over students’ “new,” morally questionable sexual activity, the term “hooking up” has become commonplace and the practice an accepted part of the college experience. For campus administrators, counselors, and professors, whose only exposure to hooking up has been media accounts or pop-culture references, it is important to know what hooking up really involves.

To the authors of the article, hooking Up itself, of course, is not a worry. That would involve judging some sexual activity as “morally questionable.” The real worry is concern over what the Hooking up might lead to: Sexual assault and alcohol abuse. Actually the last part isn’t exactly true:

However, the link between alcohol and hooking up should perhaps be understood differently. It may be that the hookup system drives student alcohol consumption rather than the other way around. One reason that hooking up requires alcohol is that students need it to alleviate anxiety. Drinking provides liquid courage with which to express interest, initiate a hookup, and allay fear of rejection. Alcohol also helps to dismiss — temporarily, at least — concerns over the sexual aspects of hooking up: deciding how far the encounter should go or being sexually intimate outside of an exclusive relationship.

Here’s a rule of thumb. If you have to get drunk to do it, it’s a bad idea. The author reports drinking is designed to alleviate anxiety. It is more likely that students need to numb their consciences in order to engage in such a parody of dating? I once heard an ex-stripper explain that she had to have a few shots just to get up on stage every night. That wasn’t stage fright. That was soul fright. As if that weren’t enough:

Given that alcohol-fueled (consensual) hookup encounters are common, it can be difficult for students, as well as administrators, to distinguish between a hookup and a sexual encounter that crosses the line and becomes rape. As a result, victim-blaming and underreporting remain rampant, despite decades of work by women’s advocacy groups.

Here’s another rule of thumb. If it’s hard to tell the difference between what you are doing and rape, it’s a bad idea. Underreporting of rape remains rampant I assume because the victim convinces him or herself that since they were drunk it would be too difficult to prove rape. Likewise, if the victim is drunk they are to blame. This is rampant despite decades of work by women’s advocacy groups. It’s just speculation on my part but I bet the work that has been done for decades does not include denouncing the hook up culture that is the impetus for all of these truly horrific things that happen to women. Here’s one reason for my skepticism:

College administrators cannot change the fact that hooking up dominates campus culture. They should not denounce it, given that it has been going on for decades and encompasses a wide range of behavior. But by striving to understand it better, they can help to educate students.

Administrators should not denounce the hook up culture? They should seek to understand it and educate students so that they don’t abuse alcohol and rape or get raped. Yes, the sexual revolution had a grand baby and it’s hideous to look at. Heaven forbid some adults in the room actually tell college students not only that hooking up can be dangerous but that it’s stupid and immoral. And the reason we shouldn’t engage in the centuries old practice of public judgment? It’s been going on for decades and encompasses a wide range of behavior. I’m sorry. That is the most offensive, wheedling, and irresponsible thing I have heard . . . since Lindsay Lohan’s last court appearance. Slavery has been practiced around the world for centuries and for lots of different motives, the least of which is the wicked belief in the inferiority of some races, but that doesn’t bar us from making moral judgments against it and trying to convince several Arab nations to outlaw it. And it shouldn’t prevent administrators from calling drunken trysts and those who engage in them what they are: shameful, degrading, and dangerous–just like slavery, alcohol abuse, and having sex when you can’t see straight.

As if that’s not enough, the Chronicle published another article a few weeks later entitled “The Emotional Cost of Hooking-Up.” Lo and behold a scientific study confirms that women don’t like hook ups very much but do it in order to find a lasting relationship. And predictably it’s having a devastating effect on the soul . . . ahem pardon me . . . the psyche.

Helen Gurley Brown meant to shock when in 1962 she wrote her classic advice book, the best-selling Sex and the Single Girl, advocating sexual fun (and financial independence) for unmarried women. Nearly half a century later, the revolution she helped usher in seems complete: Young women now engage in premarital sex at almost the same rate as young men.

Yes, the revolution that wanted to make women equal has only managed to make women as perverse as men. That’s progress. But even among the feminists there is dissent:

In a recent cover story in The Weekly Standard, Charlotte Allen described what she calls the New Paleolithic Age—a world in which “Cro-Magnons once again drag women by the hair into their caves—and the women love every minute of it.

Again not exactly. While men report being non-plussed about casual sex, women are reporting heartbreak, depression, and sorrow. The emotional costs are the price paid for the female sexual revolution.

Women don’t want sex for long without an emotional connection, a sense of caring, if not real commitment, from their partners. As one student wrote in a paper for my class, “We are told not to be sexual prudes, but to enjoy casual sex, we have to be emotional prudes.”

And not only are feminists saying this but so is the secular priesthood. Evolutionary biologists are weighing in:

None of this would surprise John Townsend, an evolutionary anthropologist whose extensive research has led him to believe that many women go through an experimental stage when they try casual sex, but that they almost always end up rejecting it. For women, intercourse produces feelings of “vulnerability” and of being used when they cannot get the desired emotional investment from their partners. In Townsend’s studies, that occurs even among the most sexually liberated women. Despite their freethinking attitudes, their emotions make it impossible for them to enjoy casual sex.

Those pesky emotions always causing problems. Might be one of the reasons co-eds need alcohol to numb them. Even the priesthood agrees that hooking up is bad for women (or at least evolutionarily disadvantageous).

Edward S. Herold and Dawn-Marie Mewhinney found that women who hook up get less enjoyment and feel more guilt than men do. Denise Hallfors and colleagues found that female teenagers are much more likely than male teenagers to become depressed after sexual encounters with multiple partners. Catherine Grello, a clinical psychologist, and colleagues found that college men who sleep around the most are the least likely to report symptoms of depression, while female college students who engage in casual sex are the most likely to report depression.

So the evolutionary biologists have concluded that men delight in hooking up and women suffer from it. This should lead to reconciliation. Let’s throw off patriarchalism. Men should sacrifice their evolutionary imperatives for the good of women. Who’s with me? I want to see the National Organization of Women calling for men to stop hooking up and abusing women and women to stop letting them. Equality now.

In essence, we can view all of this data two ways. The first is that this emotional disadvantage is something that women should just expect, work through, and largely ignore in favor of more soul-numbing adventures in hopes of finding Mr. Right through a series of trysts with Mr. Right now. We can lament the abuse of alcohol and the prevalence of unreported sexual assault while the modern university burns. And we can settle for equal rights to lechery. Or we can suck up our collective gut and stop educating and start moralizing. Hooking up is stupid, dangerous, and doesn’t reflect or lead to virtue. People who do this do not have good character. They are foolish. It tramples feelings, deadens passion, and creates a life not worth telling your kids about. And if the university administrators don’t have the guts to say it, the Church better be shouting it from the rooftops.


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