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Do you imagine your college son or daughter participating in hookup culture on college campuses? How about them hooking up with a potential life partner as you may have in college? Well, “hooking up” these days has a brand new meaning.
The kids call it “hit it and quit it.”
Mostly, it’s the old casual encounter without any expectation of meaning or future emotional investment from either participating party. This concept has replaced “dating” as the most common form of sexual encounter on college campuses across the nation.
But mostly, it highlights the truth that there’s a lot to talk about regarding sex with our college kids.
Talking to your semi-adult-still–financially-dependent college student about sex may seem a tad late in the timeline of parenting. Perhaps sex wasn’t a topic often discussed at home post-5th grade PTA film so it’s not a comfortable subject, to begin with.
Sex may be something that you implicitly fought about when it came to enforcing rules, curfews, and expectations during their emerging independence. Maybe you fear talking about it gives tacit permission when you don’t think they are ready yet.
Perhaps they are sexually active now and you’re unaware. You may be happy, worried, disappointed, or secretly envious of your teen’s sexual choices.
At any rate, they still need your input at this critical juncture. Especially since the road toward participating in hookup culture on college campuses seems unavoidable.
To make a difference with your son or daughter, you have to accept that it is no longer possible to control them. In fact, you deserve a round of applause if you have a strong influence in your young adult’s life at this stage.
For those without any clout, in our experience, college-aged students seek guidance more readily if you relate to them. As a suggestion, try talking to them from the first-person perspective.
Lead with sentences by saying, “This is what I think… This is what I believe.” Avoid saying phrases like, “This is what I expect of you” or “This is what is right and wrong.” College is a time of exploration after all. A time for our offspring to grasp new ideas, and gain exposure to a broad spectrum of values, people, and cultures.
To protect them from peer pressure, arm your child to be a critic even if that means they are also critical thinkers about your long-held values. Do your best to listen without judgment and try to help them process the onslaught of new emotions.
A hookup goes like this: Two young people that find each other attractive, spark civil and minimal conversation with the sole intention of physical intimacy. After the intimate act concludes, so too does the relationship.
Variations on this theme include the term “f*ck-buddies”, which is when the two attracted parties decide to casually keep the physical connection going without any emotional attachment.
Another common phrase is “booty calls” describing the act of calling up a partner for a casual sexual encounter on the spot.
Many include same-sex experiences which may or may not indicate gender identity shifts. And of course, the experimental ménage a trois (or a threesome), a sexual act involving multiple (3) partners.
Rules of these encounters: No one cares and no one gets hurt. But we, as experienced adults having survived the hookup culture on college campuses in our day, understand that this isn’t always true.
Hookup culture on college campuses is seemingly all about sensation and satisfaction. Not an emotional connection. As a result, marriage is often sidelined to career development because young men and women want to achieve a modicum of financial security before partnership and children.
So how can we empower our children as they experience the college sexual culture first-hand and often without parental guidance?
For females, the freedom to experiment sexually seemingly without fear of reputation is the catalyst for their participation in hookup culture on college campuses. It’s become socially acceptable for young women to enjoy casual sex. A right typically reserved for their male counterparts.
Hanna Rosin wrote in an article titled Boys on the Side that hookup culture is “an engine of female progress—one being harnessed and driven by women themselves.“ Another article titled Love Actually written by Caitlin Flanagan notes, that women “just spent the better part of a decade being hectored—via the post-porn Internet-driven world—toward a self-concept centering on the expectation that the very most they could or should expect from a boy is a hookup.”
The article goes on to point out how society’s Mother figures practically abandoned young girls in this ideal. The article reads, “We didn’t particularly stand in the way of that culture; we left the girls alone with it.”
While some girls may enjoy a season of free sex, many girls are upset by the lack of an emotional connection following a hookup. Instead, they battle tremendous feelings of rejection and insecurity.
And what about the young boys?
For men, there is tremendous ease with which their bodies reach a climax. For women, patience and knowledge about their bodies are often necessary to reach a climax. While men can fundamentally delay their child-bearing years, women have a limited window.
College-aged kids seemingly have two tasks in front of them: find a purpose in life and find a partner for life. Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development has provided an important framework for understanding the role of the adolescent within the life cycle.
According to the theory, during adolescence, the individual is confronted with the need to resolve the crisis of Identity vs. Identity Diffusion and Intimacy vs. Isolation. Whether you concur with this ideal or not, the difficulty for both genders is that it doesn’t forward the resolution of the intimacy crisis.
College students seem to believe that these crises can be sequenced. The hookup culture values attractiveness as the highest reason to form alliances. While attraction is important in marriage, as a single preeminent value, it doesn’t guarantee sexual compatibility and is not broad enough for a life partnership.
The discussion of sexuality doesn’t have to happen before the dorm room move-in. It would take at least all four academic years to talk about all these things. Instead, we need a long view of their development and not have panicked “warning” talks which could spoil our chances of relating in the future.
To begin, try getting your kids to open up about their feelings about the hookup culture on college campuses before we share our viewpoints. Listen to their responses before inserting any thoughts or reactions.
If you intend to preach that marriage is the appropriate place for sexual expression, first consider whether your marriage is enviable as an example for your children. Let’s be careful what pressures we place on them with our intentions to discuss the topic.
After that, all we can do is highlight the facts. Pointing out that good sex might take time to develop in a relationship, for example. Reminding them that the first experiences they have with sex might be awkward and that that’s okay.
We might ask them what their friends are saying about sex as a bridge to their feelings. Do they care about connection before, during, and after a sexual experience?
We can reassure our sons that they do not need to be sexual Casanovas to prove their manhood. We can reassure our daughters that they have important qualities other than their attractiveness that will be essential for their future.
We need to remind both genders that “no” still means no. And affirm that it’s okay, even beautiful, to want connection, respect, and meaning in their relationships.