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Unhooked

posted by Scot McKnight

Hookup.jpgIn a recent post we discussed the hooked up culture and the neuroscience connected to hooking up — the brain, so those authors argue, is the most influential sexual organ. That book discussed the facts and interpretation of neuorscience.

Laura 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
.

Stepp concludes, after listening to the stories of young women involved in the hook-up culture, that “Relationships have been replaced by the casual sexual encounters known as hookups” (5).

A question I have, one that undergirds some of Stepp’s study, is if you learned in your public schooling and cultural education that “needing” another person was a good, a negative, or a neutral? Please think through this one if you can. One of the findings of Stepp’s book is that young women are taught that needing a man is not good.

So, what is a hookup? In a word:

Various sexual relations with no commitment. “Partners hook up with the understanding that however far they go sexually, neither should become romantically involved in any serious way” (5). Thus, its defining characteristic is the ability to unhook at any time. The number of sexual partners a typical college student has might surprise even the most realistic of Americans.



“The need,” she concludes, “to be connected intimately to others is as central to our well-being as food and shelter. In my view, if we don’t get it right, we’re probably not going to get anything else in life right” (9).

Her approach is to study a theme through the story of a woman. This life flows into a fire at college where students — she’s concerned with the women and what hooking up does to their sense of self-worth — enter into routine weekend hooking up where they go to parties intending to have sex with no particular person in mind.

The young woman she studies in this chp: “Like many smart girls who believe they can have sex and not become emotionally attached, she was surprised by the depth of her feeling” (26). She concludes this: “Hooking up leaves” these young women “wholly unprepared for both the steadfastness and the flexibility a loving relationship requires” (28).

In 2000, a professor at the College of New Jersey studied 555 undergrads and found that four out of five were involved in hooking up.

Why is this going on? Love can wait is one of Stepp’s major findings. Career matters most and, until they find the person they want after they’ve found the career they want, they will simply engage in sexual activities with no commitment involved.



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ChristSpeak

posted July 1, 2009 at 2:52 am


It’s interesting hearing this from the female perspective – having read “Every Man’s Battle” and material like it I am more used to hearing about how it functions on our side of the gender.
I suppose my question is whether a career ought to come before love or if it simply has to because students are unwilling to take relationships seriously until then?
Granted, it is generally a good thing to get a degree before marriage (if you plan to attend college), but does this prohibit the beginning of a serious relationship with intent of future marriage?
Interesting thoughts, anyways :)



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RJS

posted July 1, 2009 at 7:00 am


I also would like to know what others – especially those in their 20′s or 30′s – think here.
I would say that I was taught (in the late 60′s and 70′s), or at least learned, that “needing” a man – for protection, for provision, for self-worth, for completeness – was not good. Relationship is good (even very good) as long as it does not arise from need and dependency and doesn’t interfere with personal goals.
Things worked out somewhat differently – but in my early 20′s I didn’t expect to look for serious relationship or marriage until I was established in my mid 30′s.
Add to this relaxed sexual morality and a media that hypes sexuality more and more boldly and we come to the situation today.



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Rick Cruse

posted July 1, 2009 at 7:13 am


One other book (and issue) to throw into the discussion: Oral Sex is the New Goodnight Kiss. This is happening under the noses of parents as their daughters are lured (or dive willingly) using sex (not to get love but to get money and bling).
This book and documentary film by Sharlene Azam, are about the recent emergence of teenage prostitution rings in affluent suburbs. Attractive, white, high school girls – 13, 14 and 15 years old – are having sex with up to 7 men a night, several times a week, so they can go shopping. Other girls are selling their virginity for $1000. These are not street prostitutes. “They are the prettiest girls from the most successful families,” explains one expert. “Your daughter’s best friend is recruiting her right out of your house, right under your nose,” says Detective Randy Wickins of the Edmonton Vice Unit. Oral Sex Is The New Goodnight Kiss is a wake up call for parents, showing them girls who have been recruited, their mothers, their “friends” who recruited them (the new pimps), and the vice cops and experts who are trying to make sense of this new middle-class phenomenon.



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Billy Kangas

posted July 1, 2009 at 8:34 am


1) There is a sense in which any “need” creates a vulnerability.
2) It seems to me that weakness and vulnerability like to hang out.
3) If marriage is a union that demonstrates Christ and the church there might be a role for need.
4) In my own life it seems the more I “need” my wife the less I am able to serve her… She becomes a means rather then an end.
5) I need Jesus… in that need I am weak
6) Through Jesus I am stronger… even though I need him



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T

posted July 1, 2009 at 8:41 am


Both my wife and my sisters were told they didn’t need a man, and I think with good results. Of course, they were celebrated for their own accomplishments and thoroughly enjoyed athletics, piano, etc. The combination (and many other factors, I’m sure) made them all tough to catch and uninterested in just ‘hooking up.’
Plus, I believe being told “you don’t need a man” isn’t the culprit, and even seems consistent with Paul’s own teaching.



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Joan Ball

posted July 1, 2009 at 8:44 am


This post dovetails with something I noticed earlier this week about pop/hip hop songs highlighting female independence as a sexually attractive quality to men. The following lines from a top-10 song by NE-YO are the modern version of Gen X “I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and never, never let you forget your a man” commercial for Enjolie perfume. A little long, but very telling.
Miss Independent by NE-YO
There’s something About kinda women
That want you But don’t need you
Hey I can’t figure it out
There’s something About her
Cuz she walk like a boss Talk like a boss
Manicured nails To set The pedicure off
She’s fly effortlessly
Cuz she move like a boss Do what a boss
Dude She got me thinking
About getting involved
That’s the kinda girl I need
She got her own thing That’s why I love her
Miss Independent
Won’t you come And spend a little time
There’s something About kinda woman
That can do
It for herself I look at her
And it makes me proud
There’s something
About her There something
Ooh So sexy
About the kinda women
That don’t even Need my help
She says she got it She got it No doubt
There’s something About her
Cuz she work Like the boss Play like the boss
Car and a crib She about To pay em both off
And her bills Are paid on time
She made for a boss Only a boss
Anything less She’s tellin em To get lost
That’s the girl Thats on my mind



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Pat

posted July 1, 2009 at 9:03 am


As a woman born in the 60s, I was not taught in school that I didn’t need another person, but I was educated in Catholic schools. However, I did learn through family experience to not depend on other people. My father made everything so hard, that I just decided to get things for myself and consequently, I was fiercely independent for a very long time. I’ve learned to be less so, however as a single woman who does not have the luxury of a husband, I still am accustomed to doing so much on my own, so there is still some of that independence present in my life. Plus, I think for a long time I viewed needing someone as weak and I looked down on women who seemed helpless to do anything for themselves. That hasn’t been an option in my life. If I’m faced with a situation, standing still or breaking down is not an option. I’ve tended to take action rather than standing by like a damsel in distress.
As for today’s society, I think it’s very sad that love is secondary and has been replaced by “hooking up”. What people have bought into as something that is not necessary (love) I believe they are really looking for that in these hook-ups and in other phenomena like reality shows. Everyone wants to be loved. We’ve just bought a lie about what true love really is and are seeking it in unhealthy ways.



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Travis Mamone

posted July 1, 2009 at 9:12 am


I could never get into the whole “hooking up” thing. I get way too attached to people, so I can’t have “meaningless sex.”



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Julie Clawson

posted July 1, 2009 at 9:30 am


I’m 31 and honestly not once growing up was I encouraged to discover who I was, build a career, or become an independent person. Women who did those things were mocked by my family and church as selfish and labeled the worst of all words – feminist. The message I heard was that good Christian girls didn’t care about those things because they should care about their family more. Even in public school where I was near the top of my class, winning all sorts of academic awards it was assumed that I should become a teacher – an approved job for a woman especially once she has kids. (not that being a teacher isn’t great, it was just the only option I was encouraged with).
I got married very young. The other night I was talking with a group of women who all grew up in conservative Christian homes and who all married very young. Every one of us expressed that we wish we had some clue who we were before we got married. Not that we regret our husbands or kids, but that we wish we had enough of a sense of self to understand that marriage wasn’t our only option at the time. But at Wheaton College, it was generally assumed that you didn’t date. To even have a meal with someone meant you were considering them for marriage. It made male/female relationships a bit awkward to say the least. It’s hard to be friends or simply learn from each other when the assumption is that the only good reason for getting to know them is if you are planning on marrying them.
I am not a fan of hook-up culture for a variety of reasons, but what I experienced was just as unhealthy in its own way.



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John D'Elia

posted July 1, 2009 at 10:17 am


Scot,
This has become a warm topic here in the UK–oddly enough not as much in Christian circles as in the broader culture. See the link below for one woman’s story of choosing celibacy for a year.
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1195344/My-year-sex-Hephzibah-Anderson-took-dramatic–liberating–decision-So-did-help-real-love.html



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Kacie

posted July 1, 2009 at 12:02 pm


Yes, as a 26 year old, the general culture of women around me emphasizes that we don’t NEED anyone else. One of my non-Christian friends wrote a blog post about the Christian girls around her that were getting married, and how while their marriages might be alright, my friend despised how each of those women drew so much of their identity from their marriage and their man. She emphasized that she wanted to be her own person, and not NEED anyone, only freely GIVE love to someone.



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cas

posted July 1, 2009 at 1:38 pm


Julie,
Thanks for sharing your story. It helps me understand where you’re coming from. I didn’t get those kinds of messages at home or at church. I only heard them from peripheral sources. For this, I’m grateful.



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craig v.

posted July 1, 2009 at 1:40 pm


When my sister and I were very young we used to laugh when my mom would play Barbara Streisand singing “People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.” Now I know Barbara wasn’t so far off. The problem, I think, is that ‘need’ is a complex word. To need someone in order to be happy is a red flag. To choose to need someone out of love is not.
I also wonder, with sadness, how much the hook-up culture is the direct result of our failure as Christians to take seriously the social injustices that feminism attempts to address. We are not always very good at listening.



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Karl

posted July 1, 2009 at 2:53 pm


I agree with Craig #13 that “need” is a complex word that may require some nuancing here.
I don’t believe it’s healthy to be “needy” relationally, perpetually looking for others (or for one’s spouse) to fill in one’s sense of self worth. But neither do I believe that it’s healthy to be so fiercely and proudly “independent” that one’s mantra becomes “I don’t need anyone else.” Isn’t the healthy, desirable place somewhere between those two extremes?
I wonder to what extent the ever-increasing availability of pornography has affected the hookup culture? Or are they merely parallel phenomena, driven by similar cultural forces? Naomi Wolfe’s article for New York Magazine several years ago makes several points that IMO are relevant to the discussion of hookup culture:
http://nymag.com/nymetro/news/trends/n_9437/
“The whole world, post-Internet, did become pornographized. Young men and women are indeed being taught what sex is, how it looks, what its etiquette and expectations are, by pornographic training?and this is having a huge effect on how they interact.
“But the effect is not making men into raving beasts. On the contrary: The onslaught of porn is responsible for deadening male libido in relation to real women, and leading men to see fewer and fewer women as ?porn-worthy.? Far from having to fend off porn-crazed young men, young women are worrying that as mere flesh and blood, they can scarcely get, let alone hold, their attention.
“Here is what young women tell me on college campuses when the subject comes up: They can?t compete, and they know it. For how can a real woman?with pores and her own breasts and even sexual needs of her own (let alone with speech that goes beyond ?More, more, you big stud!?)?possibly compete with a cybervision of perfection, downloadable and extinguishable at will, who comes, so to speak, utterly submissive and tailored to the consumer?s least specification?
“For most of human history, erotic images have been reflections of, or celebrations of, or substitutes for, real naked women. For the first time in human history, the images? power and allure have supplanted that of real naked women. Today, real naked women are just bad porn.”
If Wolf is right and porn is what is driving many young men’s expectations and many young women feel like they have to perform up to porn standards in order to hold a guy’s attention and interest, then it seems reasonable to conclude that this is also one of the factors driving the hookup culture, in addition to female notions of liberation and desires for career, putting off marriage until later, etc. Not that it’s an either-or. I think there are multiple forces at work driving the hookup trend.



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