This morning, I fired up my Android G1 and checked my Inbox and found a link to a post on NPR.com, Sex Without Intimacy: No Dating, No Relationships. The premise of the article is that there is no time, in a busy boy or girl’s life, to get stuck in a relationship:
Young people from high school on are so preoccupied with friends, getting an education and establishing themselves, they don’t make time for relationships. New goal: fun, not marriage.
Well, I have had some very strong opinions about this, especially when it comes to girls. In my 2005 opinion, when I wrote Manolo Blahnik Feminism: The Right to Choo’s, I believed that the new “hook up” culture would be a blood bath where women would move forward with the intent of sexual empowerment while men would sit back and lick their lips and take advantage — but I don’t know anymore.
A number of experts accept this relaxed attitude toward sex outside of relationships as a natural consequence of the sexual revolution, women’s growing independence and the availability of modern contraceptives. But Deborah Roffman, who conducts human sexuality workshops for middle- and high-school-age students and their parents, sees that as a distorted view of liberation.
“It’s not a new model. I think most people would probably look back and agree that this has been a more traditionally, or at least stereotypically, male model,” says Roffman. “What I’ve seen over the last few years is girls adopting a more compartmentalized view, and feeling good and empowered by it.”
She’s not convinced that this is a good thing for women, and says that being able to say yes is only one way of looking at freedom. She would feel much better if young men also were developing a greater capacity for intimacy.
Being able to engage in intimate relationships where men and women bring all of themselves to the relationship is the cornerstone of family, Roffman says.
I addressed this in a much less elegant way, which is why I am not Dr. Abraham, in We Men Didn’t Get the Memo, wherein I posit that this “devil may care” attitude towards sex and the hookup could very well result in a Judo flip that puts men too far into the driver’s seat as women need to compete for men because, for men, it is about the path of least resistance to sexual behavior:
As men in such a seller’s market, we don’t have to choose. We can date another willing girl every night. We can push sex much faster than we ever could believe. The three-date rule? Ha! That’s the official rule, but now the first date counts from the night we first met. Oral sex on the first date has sort of become de rigueur — if you want a second date.
Instead of getting control, the Manolo Blahnik Feminist has relinquished control to us men.
And even worse, this is a very dangerous game. We men are bigger, stronger, and not all of us are so nice. I personally have a lot of experience with women who are survivors — survivors not just of dating or their 20s, but survivors of sexual abuse and rape. [We Men Didn’t Get the Memo]
Well, that was then, this is now. Has it turend out the way I thought? Well, according to recent books like Restless Virgins: Love, Sex, and Survival at a New England Prep School and Oral Sex Is The New Goodnight Kiss, maybe things aren’t as fun, simple, or innocent — girl-friendly — as:
We all attended health class in middle school and high school. We know about condoms and sexually transmitted disease. Sex is fun, and a lot of people would argue that it is a physical need. It’s a healthy activity.
Well, after four years and a year living in Berlin, I intuit that the psycho-sexual culture of America’s youth is becoming way more — but not exactly — European. Not exactly because from what I got from the article is that this new mood of hooking-up is driven by intimacy-avoidance rather than intimacy-seeking. Europeans, and Berliners in particular, are not averse to intimacy. Are you intimacy-averse?
Europeans don’t date — even the Brits don’t date — they hang out in groups, go dancing, drinking, socializing, and sometimes hooking up and having one-night stands; however, the be all and end all of this friendly mixing is not to secure constant sex but to have fun. While we like to think of Europeans as being more open to sex and maybe even more promiscuous, I don’t know how true that is.
My German friend Frank tells me that they find their partners like this:
Well, we hang out together as friends and sometimes when we’re out we dance and drink and sometimes go home together.
Then, when you wake up in the morning, you decide: do I like this — do I like her — or don’t I? If it doesn’t work out, it is considered a one-night-stand, of course, but not with a stranger, with a friend, which is OK in the group.
However, if it does work out, there is a very strong nesting instinct and couples who hook up casually after a night out oftentimes live together, have children, and spend decades together — without all of the bullshit and expectations of the interviewing of dating and the officiation of marriage.
I have a feeling that this is where dating is going in America. And this is not the result of American cynicism or self-destructive behavior, but rather as a continuing evolution away from a “women-as-chattel” culture of marriage to something else. Maybe a gender culture of “separate but equal,” that is less concerned with roles, with expectations, or with God’s Sacraments and more interested in living a life, “fulfilled.”
I don’t fancy this is a response to anything. Why? Well, I was just reading a New York Magazine article called Class of ’09 that kept reinforcing the discovery that teens and 20-somethings these days really love, trust, and appreciate their parents — consider them friends and even share their musical tastes. Parents as mentors, something that is also a breaking down of traditional structures of family.
That said, could the other side of the double-edged sword be that parents have been doing less parenting and a lot of befriending. Are America’s youth acting out sexually because their parents were too busy? Because their parents were too adoring? Because their parents were terrible role models? Could it be a reflection of their parents’ behavior? Could it be the result of indulgent parenting? Well, I don’t know.
Personally, I think that it is a good thing when kids love their parents and don’t think everything they do is super-uncool and lame, no matter how bad it may be for prime time comedies and sit-coms.
I don’t know how this is all going to shake out. I believe that there is going to be a lot of casualties, both emotionally as well as physically, before it all sorts itself out in the end.
What do you think?
I am going to post both articles below: the one from NPR and the one from my blog