Q2014: Donna Frietas and the Hookup Culture

This entry is part 4 of 9 in the series Q2014

Don’t miss the StoryMen #QNashville Day 1 recap. Click here to listen!

The End of Sex by Donna Freitas

Click to see Donna’s book on Amazon

Donna Freidas was teaching a course on sexuality and spirituality. All of her students talked about “hooking up”. After Spring Break, they were all debriefing when one student said,

I hookup all the time and I don’t know why. I don’t even like it.

The other students all agreed. Donna was shocked, so she began studying the collegiate hookup culture. She found that young adults believe they are supposed to be casual about sex in college.

Official Social Contract of the Hookup:

  1. Anything from kissing to sex
  2. Brief
  3. Feel zero emotional attachment so you don’t get attached. Communication is bad because  it leads to attachment.
  4. Alcohol (This last aspect is technically unofficial, but alcohol is nearly always involved.)

Stats on attitudes about hookups

  • 41% are profoundly unhappy
  • 23% are ambivalent (“whateverist” — Donna’s term for those who are casual about… everything. They’re a growing population)
  • 36% more or less “fine” (not great/good/fun/etc)

Hookups are Efficient

Collegiates describe themselves as “So busy, we’re always on. We have no time for relationships in college. But we gotta have sex.” So hookups are efficient.
Hookups have become an “Efficient Sexual Intimacy”.
Students believe hookups are their only option. This despite the fact that the hookup culture creates a lot of suffering, alienation, shame for both men and women.

College Students are Missing Romance & Dating

  1. Both men and women yearn for romance
  2. Both men and women wish for old-fashioned dating.

Romance is very chaste. It’s talking (for like 5 hours). It’s no technology. Romance is communication. It’s connection. It’s knowing and being known. It’s a lavish amount of time.

Q Donna FreitasResponding to Hookup Culture

In the context of Evangelical purity culture, talking about abstinence before marriage is totally logical. In hookup culture it doesn’t make any sense. It’s not realistic/useful. If you present abstinence as the answer for those in the hookup culture, it will shut them down.
Donna advises that we Back up (but don’t give up) the abstinence rhetoric. So how do we respond?
  1. Teaching YAs to slow down. (In life)
  2. Pressing “pause” on participating in hookup culture (maybe even for a weekend). This is sneaky abstinance.
  3. Start talking about romance, love, dating intimacy, and overall relationship skills.
Most YAs don’t have the skills to be romantic.
Christianity is bigger than its teaching against premarital sex. If that’s our only response, we teach kids that the only thing that matters when they’re young is to not have sex. That’s an impoverished view of Faith. — Donna Freitas

The Good Samaritan Approach (Creative Attention)

If you see someone lying in the road, don’t just hold up a sign (ABSTINENCE UNTIL MARRIAGE!) as you walk by. Set aside your sign and go to them.
If you find they’re deaf, STOP SHOUTING. Don’t give up if you realize they can’t hear you. They are still lying there waiting for someone, anyone to respond. To extend a hand.
So try something new. Be creative. Meet them where they are. CREATIVE ATTENTION is what is necessary when you see someone who’s suffering. Creative Attention restores humanity and dignity.

Creative Attention requires you to see them where they are, not where you want them to be.

The Christian conversation surrounding Sex has been around the Don’ts. In context of the HookUp Culture, it doesn’t work. We’re marginalizing the suffering.
Series Navigation<< Q2014: Unity with Christena Cleveland, Bill Haslam and Karl DeanQ2014: Father Bruno Shah Defines Love >>
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  • Thanks for sharing your notes about this, JR. I’ve listened to most of the latest Storymen podcast wherein you all are discussing this talk.

    What struck me about Freidas’ talk was the efficiency angle. And it seems to me that these people are extending the logic of “everything’s a market/company” to relationships facilitated by technology.

    And I wonder if we need to do more to resist this logic of seeing themselves as miniature companies. (But this might mean we have to remove this plank from our own eyes!)

    If you or other readers are interested in what sociologists have found on the subject, the Sociological Images blog has some great material on the subject . They do a great job of sifting through the issue carefully.

    One thing that is important to keep in mind here is that according to the research, there much more at play here than a mere loss of sexual and relational mores at the hands of technology.

    Those elements are present, but so are a host of other things. Wade writes in describing one of her short videos on the topic, that:
    There is something wrong, I argue, but it’s not unique to casual sex. Instead, the problems students face on campus — heterosexism, gender inequality, and a relentless pressure to be “hot” — don’t go away with graduation.

    In that sense, for better or worse, college is a “functional training ground” for the friendships, marriages, workplace interactions, and other types relationships that students will encounter after college; social inequalities threaten the health of all of these relationships. Instead of shaking our fingers at college students, then, we should recognize that the acute problems we see on campuses are symptoms of the ills that characterize our wider sexual culture as well.