The cherry blossoms have arrived and so has my last column. Last column, we discovered that dating culture has never had a “standard” — it is a constantly morphing process as the power dynamic between genders has shifted considerably in the past 100 years. As a result, the dating culture has never been perfect, and changes to the system do not always spell “better.” In this column I will examine a few flaws of our current dating culture, and argue for a way to improve these flaws.
One issue I have with hookup culture is conformity: how easy it is to get caught up in hookup culture because all your friends are doing it. On the other hand, it’s hard for me to slam hookup culture, simply because I know girls who prefer hooking up and would discredit my opinion as idealistic. Perhaps they’d suggest that my stance is incompatible with feminism — the “someday my prince will come” notion resulting from the intake of one too many Disney movies and Jane Austen novels. They would argue that monogamy is not for everyone, and the conversation would come down to, “Well, what makes you happy works for you, and what makes me happy works for me.”
My problem with hookup culture isn’t that it emphasizes the short term over the long term, or because I have some sort of subconscious guilt about premarital sex. I have a problem with it when I see people participate in hookup culture even though they may not really want to or are persuaded to because they feel like “everyone else is doing it.”
And that’s one thing our generation isn’t very good at dealing with: peer pressure. In William Strauss and Neil Howe’s book Generations, generations are found to cycle through four different models. The millennials, like those of the WWII generation, follow the “civic generation” model — described as youths who “develop a clear collective mission and high ambitions,” but also “develop activity-oriented peer relationships” and “peer-enforced codes of conduct.”
That description contains two major ideas that have encouraged the formation of the hookup culture. Since our parents stress academics over relationships, we hook up as a way to save time and energy, and our lifestyle of hooking up is reinforced and perpetuated by peer support and approval. That Sunday brunch at Leo’s, going over the previous night’s hookups with simultaneous feelings of amusement, pride and camaraderie, actually serves in justifying hookup culture. And as much as we millennials would like to see ourselves as individuals, let’s be real. The symbol of our generation is a social networking website based on social cohesiveness and peer approval. (Hint: You should “like” my article on The Hoya website after reading this.)
“So what?” my pro-hookup friends would ask. Hooking up is fun to do, and besides, the thought of a serious relationship at this time in life sounds both exhausting and dangerous. What I’ve noticed though, is that these girls who blast relationships seem to spend a certain amount of time and energy convincing themselves that they have successfully removed their physical selves from their emotional selves. He doesn’t call, but it’s fine because she was using him anyway.
At the same time, I’ve noticed how certain guys don’t immediately ditch a girl who’s disinterested in hooking up. This suggests the radical notion that not all guys are looking for any chance to get into the bedroom. American culture, believe it or not, contains hyper-regulated models of gender and codes of conduct for each.
Part of these norms dictate that a “manly” man should always be up for sex — no exceptions, especially if she’s attractive. Our generation’s women may have thwarted the stifling old gender norm that has restricted our sexual freedom, but what about the men? It appears that in the hookup culture, men have been left with less room for deviating from the norm. What results is a battle of the sexes, where the goal is to use the other person before they use you.
My last column ended with your involvement in hookup culture not being a matter of if, but how you participate. In this culture, relationships are seen as time wasters, as apparently no happy middle exists between short, undemanding hookups and long time-consuming relationships. My question to you: Why can’t a happy middle exist? Why can’t we integrate what we like from our current dating cultures (the freedom to regulate our sex lives) with ideas emphasized in previous dating cultures (mutual respect between both genders)?
It’s the 21st century — if you see something about dating culture that you’d like to change, then don’t let your peers guide you — they may be waiting for you to guide them.
Stacy Taber is a sophomore in the College. She can be reached at [email protected]. The Dating Dalai appears every other Friday in the guide.