Nancy P. linked this article from the radically leftist New York Times to me. I was pleasantly surprised how much I agreed with it.
I recently overhead two students talking in a dining hall at the university where I teach. “Yeah, I might get married, too,” one confided. “But not until I’m at least 30 and have a career.” Then she grinned. “Until then? I’m going to party it up.”
This young woman was practically following a script. An increasing number of studies show that many millennials want to marry — someday.
Generation Y is postponing marriage until, on average, age 29 for men and 27 for women. College-educated millennials in particular view it as a “capstone” to their lives rather than as a “cornerstone,” according to a report whose sponsors include the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia.
Yet for all of their future designs on marriage, many of them may not get there. Their romance operandi — hooking up and hanging out — flouts the golden rule of what makes marriages and love work: emotional vulnerability.
[…]Research led by the social psychologist Sara H. Konrath at the University of Michigan has shown that college students’ self-described levels of empathy have declined since 1980, especially so in the past 10 years, as quantifiable levels of self-esteem and narcissism have skyrocketed. Add to this the hypercompetitive reflex that hooking up triggers (the peer pressure to take part in the hookup culture and then to be first to unhook) and the noncommittal mind-set that hanging out breeds. The result is a generation that’s terrified of and clueless about the A B C’s of romantic intimacy.
In “The End of Sex: How Hookup Culture Is Leaving a Generation Unhappy, Sexually Unfulfilled, and Confused About Intimacy,” Donna Freitas chronicles the ways in which this trend is creating the first generation in history that has no idea how to court a potential partner, let alone find the language to do so.
If this fear of vulnerability began and ended with mere bumbling attempts at courtship, then all of this might seem harmless, charming even. But so much more is at stake.
During class discussions, my students often admit to hoping that relationships will simply unfold through hooking up. “After all,” one student recently said, “nobody wants to have The Talk,” the dreaded confrontation that clarifies romantic hopes and expectations. “You come off as too needy.”
This fear sets up the dicey precedent Dr. Brown warns us about: Dodging vulnerability cheats us of the chance to not just create intimacy but also to make relationships work.
Then there’s the emotional fallout of hooking up. This kind of sexual intimacy inevitably leads to becoming “emotionally empty,” writes Dr. Freitas. “In gearing themselves up for sex, they must at the same time drain themselves of feeling.”
This dynamic is about more than simply quelling nerves with “liquid courage” at college parties or clubs. It’s about swallowing back emotions that are perceived as annoying obstacles. And this can start a dangerous cycle.
“We cannot selectively numb emotions,” writes Dr. Brown. “When we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions.”
I’ve personally observed women who had sexual histories firsthand, during my college years as an undergraduate student and graduate student. I noticed that it caused them some trouble when they were trying to see a relationship through to marriage. The more a woman chooses men purely for looks rather than husband-qualities, the more likely she is to see a bad side of men. You don’t see the good side of men when you hook up with men who are willing to have sex before marriage. If women have enough of these bad experiences with men, it gets very hard for women to continue to invest in relationships and to serve and care for men. The very things that men are looking for from women – support, empathy, understanding, trust, vulnerability – disappear from the woman, and she is left trying to get a man to commit to her using her sex appeal alone. What a scary thought. What kind of man can you land with sex alone? Not the kind that makes a good husband and father, that’s for sure.
What does the hook-up culture teach women? It teaches them to work on their educations and careers first. It teaches them to choose the best-looking men. It teaches them to worry more about what their friends will think than about what a man does in a marriage. It teaches them to turn off their emotions for fear of getting hurt. It teaches them that offering recreational sex to a man is the way to get male attention and engagement. In the old days, before feminism, women couldn’t even use sexuality to impress a man. Everything had to be done the old-fashioned way. You would hear phrases like “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach”. Women would look at men who were good husband candidates and think about getting their attention by cooking and helping and caring. That’s all gone now, and many women aren’t even cultivating domestic skills. Domestic skills are still very much sought after by men, although sometimes they can’t articulate their needs very well.
I asked a friend of mine who had experience dating a woman who had a sexual past about this post, and he said that past sexual relationships with good-looking, non-committal men has the same effect on women that pornography has on men. He said that it changes their expectations, so that they become more and more fixated on the man’s appearance, and less and less concerned about his ability to do husband and father tasks. Another man who also has a lot of sexual experience told me that the effect of hook-up sex on women’s perception of men would be even stronger than the effect of pornography on men. Hooking-up with men for status and fun causes a change in how women evaluate men. After all, if a wedding cermemony guarantees you “happily ever after” then why not just try to make a relationship “work out” by jumping right into bed and see if easy access to recreational sex makes the man see the value of long-term, exclusive commitment and self-sacrifice.
So we have a situation where women are not looking at what a man does in a family – working, discovering the truth, setting moral boundaries, helping others to be related to God. Instead, women are trained by the hook-up culture to think about appearances and how a good looking man will make others think about her in her social group. It seems to me to be as counterproductive as if a man were choosing computer based on how the case looked on the outside, rather than the performance and cost of the parts on the inside of the case. It makes no sense. Speaking as a man, I have a list of things that I am looking for from a woman, because I have specific goals that I want marriage to achieve. A woman’s decision and ability to hook-up with me tells me nothing about her ability to perform the tasks I need her to perform in a marriage. The antidote to the strains and stress of marriage and parenting cannot be found in a hook-up, or even in a woman’s career. That’s not going to help a husband the way a husband needs to be helped.