Hanna Rosin, senior editor at The Atlantic and author of The End of Men, has written a piece about hook-up culture on and off college campuses for the September issue of her magazine. Given that I’ve done some research on hook-up culture, here are my two cents: Rosin isn’t wrong to argue that the culture offers women sexual opportunities and independence, but she mischaracterizes the objections to hook-up culture and draws too rosy a conclusion. Read the rest of this entry
College students are having sex, but not as much as you might think. And most of them are kind of disappointed about the whole thing.
Women should stop hooking up because it stalls men’s maturity and keeps them from getting married. A lot of young women will never marry because men can get sex without commitment.
That’s what what a young man told me a few weeks ago. Read the rest of this entry
Sometimes we’re confused about what’s “normal” and end up doing uncomfortable things — that may even creep us out — just to fit in.
Take wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am (or sir) sex. Plenty of us are really into it. But usually, we think others are more comfortable with random sex than we are, ourselves.
University of Texas sociologists, Mark Regnerus and Jeremy Uecker, studied sex on college campuses and found that many young people feel conflicted between their private preferences and their public behavior because they think everyone else — most importantly, “the popular” — want hookups. To not join in — or at least act like you want to — would be social suicide.
That, in turn, creates its own reality: a hookup culture that everyone thinks is real, but which is a figment of the collegiate imagination. Because while most say they’re for it, most don’t actually do it.
Researchers, Chris Reiber and Justin Garcia asked college students how comfortable they felt doing acts ranging from “first base” to “home run” (you might say) with someone they barely knew. Their findings were reported in “Hooking Up: Gender Difference, Evolution and Pluralistic Ignorance” In the journal, Evolutionary Psychology (2010).
Turns out, women and men, alike, tend to think that men are more comfortable in random carnal intimacies than they, themselves, are. AND, Read the rest of this entry
It’s really confusing. Every week you have some dorm seminar on sexual assault, and a constant buzz about what’s appropriate. Then you go to a party on the weekend and it’s everything they said to avoid. Get girls drunk so they’ll have sex with you. Lying to them or telling them how interested you are in them and how much you like them, when it’s completely not true. All you really want to do is have sex with them and then get the hell out of there.
– One man’s take on male/female relations on college campuses
While there are a lot of really great guys out there, unfortunately for women today, some guys still want to screw you. Read the rest of this entry
Hanna Rosin, senior editor at The Atlantic and author of The End of Men, has written a piece about hook-up culture on and off college campuses for the September issue of her magazine. Given that I’ve done some research on hook-up culture, here are my two cents: Rosin isn’t wrong to argue that the culture offers women sexual opportunities and independence, but she mischaracterizes the objections to hook-up culture and draws too rosy a conclusion.
Those who wring their hands and “lament” hook-up culture, Rosin contends, do so because they think women are giving it up too easily, a practice that will inevitably leave them heartbroken. She writes:
[Critics of hook up culture pine] for an earlier time, when fathers protected ‘innocent’ girls from ‘punks’ and predators, and when girls understood it was their role to also protect themselves.
If this is the problem, the answer is less sex and more (sexless?) relationships. But, Rosin rightly argues, this wrongly stereotypes women as fragile flowers whose self-esteem lies between their legs. It also romanticizes relationships. Drawing on the fantastic research of sociologists Laura Hamilton and Elizabeth A. Armstrong, she explains that young women often find serious relationships with men to be distracting; staying single (and hooking up for fun) is one way to protect their own educational and career paths.
All this is true and so, Rosin concludes, hook-up culture is “an engine of female progress—one being harnessed and driven by women themselves.”
Well, not exactly. Yes, women get to choose to have sex with men casually and many do. And some women truly enjoy hook-up culture, while others who like it less still learn a lot about themselves and feel grateful for the experiences. I make this argument with my colleague, Caroline Heldman, in Hooking Up and Opting Out: Negotiating Sex in the First Year of College [PDF].
But what young women don’t control is the context in which they have sex. The problem with hook-up culture is not casual sex, nor is it the fact that some women are choosing it; it’s the sexism that encourages men to treat women like pawns and requires women to be just as cunning and manipulative if they want to be in the game; it’s the relentless pressure to be hot that makes some women feel like shit all the time and the rest feel like shit some of the time; it’s the heterosexism that marginalizes and excludes true experimentation with same-sex desire; and it’s the intolerance towards people who would rather be in relationships or practice abstinence (considered boring, pathetic or weird by many advocates of hook-up culture, including, perhaps, Rosin).
Fundamentally, what’s wrong with hook-up culture is the antagonistic, competitive and malevolent attitude towards one’s sexual partners. College students largely aren’t experimenting with sexuality nicely. Hook ups aren’t, on the whole, mutually satisfying, strongly consensual, experimental affairs during which both partners express concern for the others’ pleasure. They’re repetitive, awkward and confusing sexual encounters in which men have orgasms more than twice as often as women:
The problem with hook-up culture, then, is not that people are friends with benefits. It’s that they’re not. As one of my students concluded about one of her hook-up partners: “You could have labeled it friends with benefits … without the friendship, maybe?”
Hook-up culture is an “engine of female progress” only if we take for granted that our destination is a caricature of male sexuality, one in which sex is a game with a winner and a loser. But do we really want sex to be competitive? Is “keep[ing] pace with the boys,” as Rosin puts it, really what liberation looks like? I think we can do better.
It’s really confusing. Every week you have some dorm seminar on sexual assault, and
a constant buzz about what’s appropriate. Then you go to a party on the weekend and it’s everything they said to avoid. Get girls drunk so they’ll have sex with you. Lying to them or telling them how interested you are in them and how much you like them, when it’s completely not true. All you really want to do is have sex with them and then get the hell out of there.
– One man’s take on male/female relations on college campuses
While there are a lot of really great guys out there, unfortunately for women today, some guys still want to screw you.
Take hookup culture. Women and men play the same game. But by different rules. Intercourse means the man wins, or “scores,” and the woman loses. He gains status. His reputation is enhanced. But “sluts,” as they’re called, “give it up,” meaning both sex and reputation. Hence, the vague meaning of “hookup” – ranging from “we kissed” to intercourse, so that she’ll keep playing the game.
Still, after sex she may beg, “Don’t tell.” But telling is the main goal. As one guy put it:
When I’ve just got laid, the first thing I think about – before I’ve even like “finished” – is that I can’t wait to tell my crew who I just did.
Why would a guy screw a girl just so he can brag? And why’s that more important than sexual pleasure?
All of the quotes above are from Guyland by sociologist, Michael Kimmel, one of the leading experts on men and masculinity. What’s his take on why some men treat women so poorly?
As Kimmel sees it, it boils down to personal identity. A preoccupation with proving “manhood.”
In America, as elsewhere, men are still thought superior. So they must constantly prove they deserve the high status.
Has anyone ever heard of “proving womanhood”? But then, why put effort into demonstrating you are lesser-than (as the culture sees it)?
Seeking to demonstrate manhood, men must be aware of what they wear or drive, or how they walk, talk, eat, stand, sit… Some meet stupidly dangerous challenges. A few may act cruelly, showing no fear or vulnerability.
Those who don’t conform may be named:
Sissy, wimp, faggot, dork, pussy, loser, wuss, nerd, queer, homo, girl, gay, skirt, mama’s boy, pussy-whipped.
Yet women aren’t afraid of being called tomboy or daddy’s girl. And when women are told, “You the man!” that’s good!
But then, when men act like women they are seen as lowering themselves. Women are not seen as putting themselves down by taking on masculine traits.
Unfortunately, some men think that f’ing women is a means of displaying “manhood” – or certain notions of what that means.
When manhood is seen as powerful, dominant, aggressive, violent, and potent, screwing women – whether they want it or not – can make men feel “they are all that” as they conquer women, getting them to submit sexually, as in competition, or war. These men aren’t vulnerable to women. They don’t have “girly” emotion-filled relationships, or experience emotional dependence. No. They are REAL men.
Even words that some men use for sex can sound violent. Here’s a list some young men in my classes made: Screw, f-, bang, nail, ram, smash, smack that, beat those, cut, boning, git-in-em-guts.
Really, when guys try so hard to be tough, they are probably bellowing to hide insecurity. So busy figuring out who they are and wanting to believe they are men, the drive for basic self-worth looms larger than sex, safety or shame in cruelty.
Michael Kimmel says guys can feel torn between proving manhood and expressing their humanity, but says they don’t need to choose. Real manhood, he says, is marked by honor, respect, integrity, emotional resilience, and doing the right thing despite the costs.