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The New Dating Culture

Though it encourages socializing in groups, it also leads to casual sex among friends
By Dave Boehi


"The paradigm has shifted.  Dating is dated.  Hooking up is here to stay."

So began a fascinating recent opinion column in the New York Times titled, “The Demise of Dating.” In the past, a boy would ask a girl out to dinner, or to a movie, and they’d get to know each other and decide if they wanted to pursue a deeper relationship. Sex sometimes occurred on the first date, but usually was postponed because it signified a deeper commitment (even if that commitment didn’t last long.)

Today, many young people socialize in groups of friends, and part of the activities may include “hooking up” with one of these friends for sex, with no expectation of an ongoing relationship afterward. They might hook up with one friend one night, and another the following weekend, and so on. As the writer of the New York Times column, Charles M. Blow, explained:

It turns out that everything is the opposite of what I remember. Under the old model, you dated a few times and, if you really liked the person, you might consider having sex. Under the new model, you hook up a few times and, if you really like the person, you might consider going on a date.

I’ve been reading about the hooking up culture for years. What struck me about this article was the section where Blow interviews a college professor who recently wrote, Hooking Up: Sex, Dating and Relationships on Campus. He asked her to explain the “pros and cons of this strange culture”:

According to her, the pros are that hooking up emphasizes group friendships over the one-pair model of dating, and, therefore, removes the negative stigma from those who can’t get a date. As she puts it, “It used to be that if you couldn’t get a date, you were a loser.” Now, she said, you just hang out with your friends and hope that something happens. The cons center on the issues of gender inequity. Girls get tired of hooking up because they want it to lead to a relationship (the guys don’t), and, as they get older, they start to realize that it’s not a good way to find a spouse. Also, there’s an increased likelihood of sexual assaults because hooking up is often fueled by alcohol.”

It could be that the professor said more that Blow did not pass on in his column. But I found myself thinking, “I think I could list a few more things wrong with the hookup culture.”

  • How about the fact that the hooking up culture leads young people to experiment with sex so casually, and at an age when they are hardly able to understand the emotional and physical consequences?How about the fact that it encourages the experienced to prey upon the inexperienced?

  • How about the fact that it is increasingly encouraging bisexual experimentation.

There is much to be said about socializing in groups. But it’s dangerous to make casual sex an accepted and intrinsic part of that group socialization. I think my generation (baby boomers) took a huge step away from biblical teachings by experimenting with premarital, casual sex, and the hooking up culture of our children is another step in that direction.

The writer of this column feels it is sad that young people are losing the ability to “just ask someone out and get to know them.” I think it’s also sad that they are also losing the ability (even more than their parents) to save sex as something special to be experienced with a future spouse.


Copyright © 2009 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

FamilyLife is a donor-supported ministry offering practical and biblical resources and events to help you build a godly marriage and family. 



Meet the Author: Dave Boehi

Dave Boehi is a senior editor at FamilyLife. He has written one book (I Still Do), coauthored the Preparing for Marriage workbook, edited dozens of books and Bible studies, and produces the FamilyLife e-newsletter Help & Hope. Dave and his wife, Merry, live in Little Rock, Arkansas, and have two married daughters.

 

 

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