'The end of [meaningless] sex:' A criticism of the hook-up culture

In her book, The End of SexDonna Freitas, a Boston University religion professor, takes on the popular notion that casual sex–hookups– is no big deal.

As the subtitle to the book puts it: “How Hookup Culture Is Leaving a Generation Unhappy, Sexually Unfulfilled and Confused About Intimacy.”

Powerful stuff when concepts like virginity and “waiting until marriage” before losing it are, at best, ridiculed and at worst considered to be destructive of character and culture. As Emily Esfahani Smith put it in a Wall Street Journal book review:

For decades now, young women have been taught by popular culture that casual sex is supposed to be liberating. Shows like “Sex and the City” sent the message that promiscuity was at worst no big deal and at best empowering. But stories like those on “Girls,” and those in Donna Freitas’s

Donna Freitas

Donna Freitas

illuminating new book, “The End of Sex,” suggest that for many young women it proves instead to be dehumanizing. Using extensive survey research and dozens of interviews with young men and women on college campuses across the country, Ms. Freitas explodes the myth of the “harmless hookup.”

Maybe it’s time to consider the hookup to be the social norm that’s destructive of character and culture. Smith again:

In other words, many college students, who in philosophy class would surely recognize the ethical imperative not to use other people as means to an end, do so every night in their dorms. This selfishness is why, as Ms. Freitas argues, the hookup culture is intimately related to sexual assault. In both, book coverone person uses another to satisfy a sexual or social desire without any regard for what that other person wants, needs or feels. Once alcohol is added to the mix, and there is plenty of it in the hookup culture, consent becomes a murky issue.

Jenifer B. McKim, in a Boston Globe review notes that hookups may not be as popular as presumed:

Freitas argues that young men and women may publicly praise the hookup — defined as “quick, ostensibly meaningless sexual intimacy” — but in private they share their ambivalence. Indeed, citing results of a national study of 2,500 college students, Freitas said a large portion of youths — 41 percent of those surveyed — were not only ambivalent but expressed “sadness” and “despair” about such brief intimate connections.

I wouldn’t bet that Freitas’ book will shut down the hook-up culture, as courageous as it was of her to write it. But it sounds like a good beginning to a discussion that for too long has been missing in our civic discourse.

Of course, there is an opposite view: “In defence of hooking up–in university and beyond,” by :

For all that’s been written about “hook-up culture” on university campuses, it’s not clear that college students are in fact embracing promiscuity in lieu of traditional relationships. While many young people think that all their peers are getting laid constantly, the reality is that the vast majority of college students “hook up” – which can mean anything from making out to intercourse – twice a year or less. Sex with a relationship partner is twice as common as sex from a casual hook up. That’s hardly the “promiscuity emergency” that authors like Donna Freitas, author of The End of Sex: How Hookup Culture Is Leaving a Generation Unhappy, Sexually Unfulfilled, and Confused About Intimacy, make it out to be.

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  • Like casual sex never happened before?

  • C ockblocker.

  • In reply to cityonthemake:

    From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cockblock

    Social research has documented norms among male peer groups that view "cock block" behavior as negative, which may make men less likely to intervene as bystanders in situations of interpersonal violence.[5][6] The terms appears to date at least to 1972, when Edith Folb documented its use by urban black teenagers.[7]

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Dennis Byrne:

    citing wikipedia? Ummmm.....ick.
    Interesting notion though. The idea its over is worth talking about, but a whole book about it???? I'd rather scour Craigslist for the meetups there, and the Rant&Raves. I DON'T hook up, just fun to read it all. And when you do, you see the argument that causal sex is alive and well. Its just moved online. And with that, its somewhat validated: nothing sleezy, no pick-up lines, no drinks involved (more or less), etc...
    A few other interesting notes: the author is unmarried. And apparently of an age where that takes places. Her views of the issue a bit skewed?
    Also, she's in Boston, the most liberal and snotty, for a lack of more tactful, yet apropos, term...city. I have first hand knowledge having lived there for a few years and dating a few people from there.
    SO I find this whole thing pretty....well...deserving of a footnote in some highbrow, slanted textbook outta UMass or Tufts.
    See the story about the 22y.o. guy making extra $ doing tricks in the Walley Word bathroom where he worked.
    And c-list. Any town. Any time. Alive and well, fluffin is.

  • I never get dressed up for casual sex.

  • I disagree with Emily Esfahani Smith's notion that, in a hookup, "one person uses another to satisfy a sexual or social desire without any regard for what that other person wants, needs or feels." In a hookup, as in a relationship, I try to fill my partner's wants and needs while fostering mutual good feelings, and I'm sure I'm not the only one. How can you kiss someone without regard for their wants and needs? A partner is not a wall; a partner in a hookup generally kisses back, and it's a mutual pleasure exchange.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to jpops37:

    Agree. That idiot's statement should have anyone questioning her agenda. She probably just needs to get laid herself.

  • fb_avatar

    "the vast majority of college students "hook up" – which can mean anything from making out to intercourse – twice a year or less"

    Twice a year or less? Hahahaha! College losers.

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