Traditional Dating Vs. The Hook-Up Culture

A recent FOX News interview conducted by Martha McCallum with a group of college students tackled the subject of the hook-up culture and why many students prefer that to traditional dating. I watched it and walked away with my own clear opinion of what is at the root of that problem (sex without emotion, strings, or consequences). In my humble opinion, I think a lot of it has to do with fear.

Young adults and other people who are part of the hook-up culture may find that laughable, but consider this for a moment: Is it possible that believing sex without emotion, strings, or consequences actually provides protection from getting hurt? Does it propose to lessen the possibility of being disappointed in each other’s imperfections?

There is so much hurt in the world. Wars, murder, rape, child and spousal abuse, lies, infidelity… it’s no surprise that most of us just want to live a happy life and not have to encounter these deep hurts. But suffering is a fact of life. You might avoid it in one way, but it’s going to get you in another. Despite this, the disappointments of love never outweigh the experience of loving.

I hold it true, whate’er befall;

I feel it, when I sorrow most;

‘Tis better to have loved and lost

Than never to have loved at all.

– From Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem In Memoriam:27, 1850

In the movie, Good Will Hunting, there is an incredibly poignant scene that illustrates my point. Will, the educational genius played by Matt Damon, and his therapist, Sean McGuire, played by Robin Williams, are talking about women and relationships. Will describes the girl he’s been out with only once as “perfect” and he isn’t ready to go out with her again because he doesn’t “want to ruin that.” Sean’s response is golden:

You’re not perfect, sport, and let me save you the suspense. This girl you met isn’t either. The question is, whether or not you’re perfect for each other. That’s the whole deal, that’s what intimacy is all about.

There’s more truth in that statement than I’ve heard in a long time. The message is, “don’t be afraid to commit to something just because you fear disappointment. The imperfections we have are what instruct us on what love really is.”

When you accept someone for who they are, faults and all, you’ve just created a “safe environment” where that person feels secure enough to be themselves. That’s the great thing about being a member of your family. You are free to be who you are; grouchy, silly, excited, angry, ill, whatever. You can be yourself and know you will be loved no matter what. That’s the freedom love brings. This kind of freedom to be who you are builds a foundation of trust that is there to support you when the disappointment of your imperfections and others’ comes in to play. It becomes easier to say “I’m sorry” and easier to forgive when that foundation of trust and safe environment is there.

But if you’re just hooking up, well, you don’t have that. You might have the thrill of a sexual encounter, but think about it… you’re giving someone access to the most personal and sacred thing about you – without that safe environment; without that foundation of trust. And if you ask me, there’s a lot more opportunity for hurt and disappointment in that, than in a flawed and dysfunctional, but committed and loving relationship.

Earlier in that scene from the movie, Robyn Williams’ character tells a little story about his imperfect wife who had passed away from cancer, and ends it by saying:

It’s wonderful stuff, you know, little things like that. Those are the things I miss the most. Those little idiosyncrosies that only I knew about. That’s what made her my wife. And she had the goods on me, too. She knew all my little pecadillos. People call these things “imperfections” but they’re not. That’s the good stuff.

I wonder if any of these students will watch the FOX interview and really listen to some of the things they said. For example, one of the young women stated she wouldn’t care how many people her future spouse will have had sex with by the time they meet and decide to get married. She just wants someone who won’t cheat on her. Hmm. How do you expect someone who has had a hook-up lifestyle to remain faithful to you? It’s a contradiction in terms, if you ask me.

There are many problems the hook-up culture presents, but I think if the people involved took time to consider an intellectually honest answer, they might admit that the fear of experiencing human imperfection was keeping them from having a full-on, real-life, honest and open, giving and taking, love relationship. And that’s just sad.

-Lisa Duffy

continue reading: