for release September 7, 2001
by Melodie Davis
Thinking Twice About "Hooking Up"
I've seen movies where losing virginity is celebrated as a rite of passage. I've heard the songs and read the magazines where sex is entertainment. Please don't dismiss me as a prude, because some young women are finding a disconnect between today's mentality that sex is nothing more than a one-evening hook up. They know intuitively that sex should mean something more. Now, of course, not all women feel that way-some want to be players. At the same time some guys/men are not just out to play the field.
A recent study, "Hooking Up, Hanging Out, and Hoping for Mr. Right: College Women on Mating and Dating Today" sheds some insights on the topic. This is the first nationwide study to document the prevalence of "hooking up" on college campuses, saying it is widespread and profoundly influences campus culture. Hooking up is a current term for sex without commitment (however, it doesn't necessarily always mean sex). Forty percent of women in the study said they had experienced a hook up, and one in ten reported having done so more than six times. The report was sponsored by a conservative women's group and conducted by the Institute for American Values (<http://www.americanvalues.org/html/hooking_up.shtml>). The report defined a hook up as "when a guy and girl get together for a physical encounter and don't necessarily expect anything further." A physical encounter could be anything from kissing to having sex, most often when both participants are drinking.
While the expectation of these relationships is that nothing will develop after a hook up, the study found that many young women nevertheless hoped that it would. A news release on the study reported that a female student at SUNY-Stony Brook, when asked how satisfied women were with the social situation on campus, responded, "Not very, because they want a stable relationship and they haven't been able to find that and sometimes get hurt by guys."
A Princeton graduate noted: "The whole thing is a very male-dominated scene. Hooking up lets men get physical pleasure without any emotional connection, but for women it's hard to separate the physical from the emotional. Women want the call the next day."
The report also looked at the phenomenon of some students being "joined at the hip" on the college dating scene. Because college guys and girls can spend just about all of their hours together if they want to, some don't develop any other friendships or relationships. They can eat, do laundry, study together, and sleep in the same room (again, with or without sex). Co-ed dorms perhaps bring together men and women in more realistic situations than just formal dating, but yet there is something to be said for too much familiarity breeding disrespect or losing the special tingle of brushing arms with the opposite sex.
One reporter, Michael A. Fletcher in the Washington Post (July 26, 2001) noted that "While the authors of [this] report often refer to the 50s and 60s as a time when the rules of courtship were clearer, they stop short of saying courting proved any more fulfilling then. 'Back in the 1950s, we got to know one another under artificial circumstances,' said Norval Glenn, a University of Texas sociologist who coauthored the report. 'You were well dressed, you put your best foot forward. That is not the best way for people to get to know one another. But at the same time, you sure don't get to know anybody well by hooking up.'"
Some women in this survey said they thought that co-ed dorms seemed to take some of the mystery out of male-female interactions. A freshman at Colby College said, "[If the dorms were single sex], the guys would be forced to go out and find girls that they like, and to see them and say, 'Well I'll call her up and pursue this.'"
The good news for parents is that at least half (54 percent) of the women in the study felt that their parents had more influence than their friends on how they thought about relationships and men. Out of this survey, 39 percent of the college women have not had sexual intercourse. So, any college girl who still has her virginity is definitely not "the only one not doing it."
We would do well to remember that sex was first of all God's idea. God created and planned for our bodies to respond the way they do. The fun of sex wasn't first discovered in a drunken frat house. What God provided a model for, at least in Genesis, was a fulfilling sexual relationship between a man and woman set up as partners for life. A positively ancient idea that somehow still works for a lot of folks.
What do you think? Send your responses for a possible follow-up column of your reactions, to: Melodie Davis, Another Way c/o Name\Address of YOUR newspaper; or e-mail: Melodie@mennomedia.org.
You can also visit Another Way on the Web at www.thirdway.com.
Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from a number of organizations including the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three growing daughters.
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