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The Big Shift

posted by Scot McKnight

Hookup.jpgLaura Sessions Stepp, a well-known journalist at The Washington Post, has a book about the nature of life for women in the hook-up culture, and the book is nothing less than a bold revelation of things you might not want to know. The book is called Unhooked: How Young Women Pursue Sex, Delay Love and Lose at Both
.

The hook-up culture is hardly representative of all college students, but numbers show that there’s more involved in this culture than want to be because of peer pressure. Questions: What changes have you seen in women in the past generation? What do you think of Stepp’s analysis? What do you think is going on in the hook-up culture?

I want to drop in this post today a few lines of hers that describe the big shift that has occurred in the last generation when it come to sexual aggression:

Young women today “want to decide who, when and, above all, what happens between them and their partners, sexually and otherwise” (65).

“The prize from high school on is the feeling of power they get from setting their sights on a boy, seducing him and walking away at will, the better to avoid commitment, distractions and being hurt.”

“This traditionally male social scheme as been reconstructed by girls who took a good look around and decided that it was better to be predator than prey, better do unto others before they do to you” (66).



“The fatal flaw in this scheme is that when girls believe this, they lose their bearings when the tables are turned. Some girls are surprised by the emptiness they feel when there’s literally nobody new left to hook up with. Some are surprised when they discover that, having gotten sex, they want love, and they’re unsure how to find it or, if they find it, how to handle it” (66).

“Hooking up leaves them unable to navigate in a world where their wants aren’t the only consideration. That is, they don’t know how to lose — and they don’t know that even winnings isn’t a one-way street” (66).



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RJS

posted July 8, 2009 at 6:57 am


This is harsh – and I think reflective of one extreme, not the whole of the culture.



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dopderbeck

posted July 8, 2009 at 9:50 am


I dunno RJS — I can see it already in some of my kids’ junior high / high school classmates, as well as in many kids I’ve taught in college and grad school. It’s definitely become an “ideal” in popular media. Think of “Desperate Housewives,” or the “Jessica” character on “Heroes,” or someone like Avril Lavigne (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cQ25-glGRzI). It’s a false idea of “empowerment.”



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Anette Ejsing

posted July 8, 2009 at 10:02 am


I think this only addresses the initial stage of a process where women slowly shut down emotionally, sexually, and relationally. What is described in these quotes is a state of being that no woman can sustain. It must morph into something else, which could include the following:
- Men cannot be trusted, I want to stick closer to my girlfriends than my male partners. Maybe I even want to explore sexual relationships with women I can trust because they also feel the same way.
- People cannot be trusted, so I would rather be an island unto others.
- I feel unworthy of someone’s love, so I will not dare to hope in love (from a partner, or others.)
- Depression! (It only takes a brief glance at stats on the use of anti-depressants among young adults and college student, to realize this is happening a lot.)
Sexuality is a much more integral part of who we are as human beings than we generally care to admit.



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RJS

posted July 8, 2009 at 10:29 am


Anette,
And then the church provides (if we take Piper’s book anyway) an image of marriage not as relationship and companionship, but as a parable of God and submission – argh.



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Randy

posted July 8, 2009 at 10:29 am


I wonder whether this is merely the maturing of the “Girl culture” as a distorted model of feminism that arose a few years ago (how many I don’t want to guess). But there seem to be similarities between the two. Both seem to be very Self-centered, in a self-defensive sort of way and not relationally healthy.
Peace,
Randy Gabrielse



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Your Name

posted July 8, 2009 at 10:34 am


So when males do this…the “consequences” must not be so severe? Since they’re supposed to be tail chasers by God’s design? So it’s the girls we have to worry about since this behavior on their part is so unnatural?



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Scot McKnight

posted July 8, 2009 at 10:45 am


Your Name … fair enough. But the book is about this theme and it is devoted to emotional and physical etc health of women in the hook up culture. If approached from this angle, I think you can appreciate this book — by a woman who calls herself a feminist. She has taken some shots from feminists, and she discusses them in the appendix, but by and large I don’t think the issue here is anything but a case for strengthening the sexual lives of women.



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Anette Ejsing

posted July 8, 2009 at 11:11 am


RJS,
I don’t think “the doctrine of submission” is as much of a problem as the fact that the Church rarely understands how to talk about it, much less understands the value of it in male/female relationships, not to speak of sexual relationships.
In order for female sexuality to flourish, is must operate in the mode of receptivity. And there is no way to develop the ability to receive if you are not first able to make yourself vulnerable. And to make yourself vulnerable you must, in a certain sense, submit to another person in complete trust that he will not violate you. Trust and submission are two sides of the same coin.
The interesting thing is that a woman who has the ability to trust a man has power over him through that ability. A man who is trusted is also captured, and he is in no hurry to run away with someone else.



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Sue

posted July 8, 2009 at 11:22 am


Annette,
Really??? So every man who has been unfaithful wouldn’t have been if only his wife had been completely trusting?? Where are you getting this?



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Jennifer

posted July 8, 2009 at 11:28 am


Anette
Some expressions of female sexuality flourish in the mode of receptivity. And some do not. Some flourish in the mode of equality. It seems much more attractive, and much more healthy and holistic, to know that both partners are submittng themselves to each other in trust and vulnerability – not just the woman.



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MatthewS

posted July 8, 2009 at 11:44 am


This is not the sum total of the discussion of male and female sexuality for sure but I think 1 Cor 7 relates to this. In the bedroom, I see Paul teaching a very level mutual submission:
7:3 A husband should give to his wife her sexual rights, and likewise a wife to her husband. 7:4 It is not the wife who has the rights to her own body, but the husband. In the same way, it is not the husband who has the rights to his own body, but the wife.
http://net.bible.org/bible.php?book=1Co&chapter=7#n6



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Anette Ejsing

posted July 8, 2009 at 11:54 am


Sue,
Absolutely not! Unfaithfulness can neither be prevented nor repaired through trust. Relationships are much more complex than that.
Therefore, I do not think you can make your argumentative turn and start deducting the other way. There are many manifestations of sexual, relational and emotional brokenness in a man that makes him NOT worthy of a woman’s trust.
It is not that women should just trust men more, and that this will fix the problems we are talking about. Far from it. In fact, I think many of the problems we do have are rooted in the fact that women have trusted where they should not have trusted.
But then we’re back to the original argument – that it is the better choice for a woman not to trust men. And that she is better off developing sexual habits where she takes charge over her own sexual experiences so she gets out of it what she wants or can. There are women who thrive on this approach, and for them it creates no major problems, but rather, it is what they want. In that case I say: Go for it!
Sex without love does have real value.
Still, there is no denying the fact that female sexuality is receptive in nature.



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Anette Ejsing

posted July 8, 2009 at 12:05 pm


Jennifer,
Yes!
I have to admit that I am not a big fan of equality in the way it is popularly promoted. Not that this is the way you promote it.
All human beings (across the sexes, races, physical abilities etc) are of equal worth.
In terms of how we INTERACT out of our equal worth, it is a different story. Interaction involves inequalities all the way around. Isn’t it the engine of life that we constantly have to negotiate, complement, add, subtract and handle the things we have in sparse or abundant measure?
This is no different in sexual relationships and marriages, if you ask me.



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Randy

posted July 8, 2009 at 1:04 pm


“Sex without love does have real value.”
It could have value, I suppose…that’s why it has become another idol to be manipulated, or to manipulate others to get what one wants. Either man or woman..using sex without love and commitment may work wonderfully well, at least seemingly so..
A dangerous god it is…because it replaces the God who gives value to the love and the sex…



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Ben Masters

posted July 8, 2009 at 2:22 pm


The first excerpt, from page 65, makes me wonder what the author expects her audience’s reaction to be. Assuming that her feminist sensibilities are somewhat similar to mine, the idea of women “want[ing] to decide who, when and, above all, what happens between them and their partners, sexually and otherwise” is a positive development in relationships (especially heterosexual ones, where one or both partners may be caught in assumptions of the “normalness” of male leadership).
Am I, the reader, supposed to be horrified by young women’s agency? Or am I supposed to read between the lines and see this as “reverse sexism” (a dubious notion at best). If the author’s goal is to have us see that this kind of “control” undermines mutuality, then I would hope that she clarifies this point.



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Jennifer

posted July 8, 2009 at 3:02 pm


Anette,
It would feel more helpful if you could say that you personally experience your sexuality/femininity as being in a mode of receiving. When you say that ALL female sexuality is that way, it can make those of us who dont experience it that way really struggle to hear what you’re saying. It reminds me of reading the Eldridge books – I read them and they dont make a lick of sense to me because they say “this is what it is like for all men, or for all women” And when you dont fit that mold, you are subtly being told there is something wrong with your makeup.
I’d really like to hear what you’re saying, but when you’re subtly telling me that my experience of my own femininty doesnt fit into how its supposed to look, I get lost and cant hear you anymore.



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Pat

posted July 8, 2009 at 3:21 pm


One of the biggest changes I’ve noticed is the number of women choosing to have babies without commitment with the father. Some are even knowingly in relationships with married or otherwise committed men. This is where the author’s quotes ring true:
“The prize from high school on is the feeling of power they get from setting their sights on a boy, seducing him and walking away at will, the better to avoid commitment, distractions and being hurt.”
“This traditionally male social scheme as been reconstructed by girls who took a good look around and decided that it was better to be predator than prey, better do unto others before they do to you” (66).
Could it be that some are choosing to have love through a child, deciding that they can manage without a husband? In this way, men are simply relegated to sex machines.



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Anette Ejsing

posted July 8, 2009 at 3:32 pm


Jennifer,
I too feel somewhat about Eldridge’s books the way you say you do. Definitely his wife’s book, Captivating, which I cannot personally identify with very much. I wonder if our positions are perhaps not in complete contrast to each other.
So, when you say that some expressions of female sexuality flourish in a mode that is not receptivity, what would that mode be? If you would even call it a mode.



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Anette Ejsing

posted July 8, 2009 at 3:41 pm


Jennifer,
I went back and read your earlier comment again and realize I had forgotten that you already called it a mode of equality. That still leaves me trying to understand what you mean by sexual equality between two sexes that are different. How would you describe the difference in male and female expressions of sexuality? If you think they are different.



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Jennifer

posted July 8, 2009 at 4:09 pm


Anette,
All I am trying to express is that I dont think women are well served when their sexuality is only called good if it is receptive. I see the behavior of the girls in the book Scot is quoting as being an overreaction to being asked to be only receptive. I think women have equal freedom with their husbands to initiate and receive, to lead and follow. When women are told it is only good for them to receive, it frustrates the part of them that was also meant to initiate. Women are not children, and they have god-given gifts to initate and lead as well. For some women, in some cultural contexts, that frustration is great enough that they will beahvior like these girls do in this chapter – totally flipping the other direction from being “receivers.” My point is that if we want girls to behave differently than in this chapter, we should give them good outlets to use their power, initiation, leadership, etc for good.



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Anette Ejsing

posted July 9, 2009 at 7:46 am


Jennifer,
Okay, I see what you are saying. Here is my response. I do not think it is only for women to receive and that we therefore cannot lead or initiate.
A woman can lead and initiate at any time when she sees a need, if the man is blind-sided, doesn’t get it or otherwise cannot see the right way forward. Men can be pretty helpless, you know.
All I want to say is that even when a woman does lead, she does it in a different way. That’s why I think we need more female leadership, not less. In our culture, our churches and our marriage relationships. Because women have a less aggressive, more sensitive, and yes, more receptive, way of pointing out where changes need to happen, they are often better leaders than men.
There is an incredible power in female leadership, but it is a different kind of power. There’s nothing stronger than a woman who can lead without having the pressure to do it male style.



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