High Erotica

Casual Sex on Campus


In the Washington Post last weekend, religion and sexuality scholar Marge Freeland told college students it’s “time to stop hooking up.”

The hookup culture – a lifestyle of unemotional, unattached sex is so pervasive and obligatory on college campuses, Freitas says, that it’s become the new conformity.

So she urges young people to engage in a more radical sexual experiment: Ask each other on real dates, or else abstain from sex altogether.

Many students choose to hook up because they want pleasure without the time and commitment that a long-term relationship requires. But they do not know how to signal, in respectful ways, that they are interested only in sex.

They think they need to be distant and cold to stave off the possibility of a relationship emerging from a one-night stand. Thus the problems of “hookup culture” are a tendency toward anonymity, self-gratification and the risk of using and objectifying others.

The abstinence-only message will resonate with people who are already like-minded. But most students — the ones who are actually hooking up — will hesitate to renounce pleasure.

For them, the no-sex alternative is too austere. I suppose there’s a place for abstinent students to share their thoughts and get to know each other but not biblically — that is a fine goal.

But if no-sex groups want to establish an alternative to hooking up, the anti-premarital-sex stance dooms its project from the start.

Presenting such a stark choice — marriage or nothing — prevents the possibility of a middle ground that would minimize harmful effects of hookup culture while taking into account how college students behave.

The abstinence crowd’s idea for improving the University’s sexual environment is to do away with sexual activity altogether.

This plan is a bit like shutting down all banks to improve the American financial system. A better route is to ask: how can we instill attitudes that permit people to pursue pleasure freely, but in a way that minimizes hurt feelings and harm to others?

One possibility is to endorse not casual sex but rather casual romance. Students should be able to imagine low-commitment partnerships that involve mutual respect.

A friendship punctuated by pleasure, dates that do not mean the two people are “dating.” These arrangements exist, but many students remain uncomfortable with relationships that resist easy definition.

To correct the ills of hookup culture, we must focus not on the sexual but on the social. Insofar as the problems of hookup culture are problems of respect, a solution must involve encouraging students to treat each other better: to honor the humanity of their sexual partners.

A myopic viewpoint that condemns premarital sex focuses on the sexual above the social. Abstinence groups lose sight of their mission by dwelling, instead, on emission.

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