Jesuit Asks, "Does Hooking Up Work?"
University Jesuit asks students ‘does hooking up work?’
College students have heard umpteen lectures and presentations on the phenomena known as the hook up culture. A hook up is a sexual encounter anywhere along the continuum from kissing to oral sex to intercourse. The fact that, for some, oral sex is as normal and common as a good night kiss still amazes people my age.
The key meaning to a “hook up” is that there are no expectations of the often drunken bump and grind developing any further. A hook up is not “just kissing.” Do it and done: that’s the deal. Don’t call me. Don’t look at me at meals or at Mass. What we did then stays then.
But is this true? Can “what happens on the hill, stay on the hill” or does the reality make an appearance in classrooms and dorms? Does the reality and do the aftereffects last for days, even years?
People are inherently real. There are no “take backs” to our freely chosen actions. What we do “echoes for eternity,” as Russell Crowe said in Gladiator. You will always be connected to those with whom you swap spit. Give an STD or STI(does calling it an STI make it any less diseased or deadly?) to someone and that person will remember you forever. Remember Herpes: the gift that keeps on giving.
More importantly, I ask young adults: Does the practice of engaging in multiple “hook ups” work? Will a man or woman who had multiple sexual partners make a good husband or wife? Is hooking up good training for life?
There’s an old saying in Jesuit circles: We form our habits and our habits form us. Those whose sexual practices militate against fidelity, monogamy and meaning during their late teen and young adult years will not easily settle down once they marry in their late 20s or early 30s.
Tiger Woods wasn’t able to turn off the hook up game after he married, and now his wife and kids and golf game are all suffering. John Edwards will never be president, largely because he couldn’t say “No” to a videographer. And does any young woman really want to grow up and become Snooki or Chelsea Handler?
John Van Epp writes in “U.S. Catholic” that the marriages of those who wed in their early twenties are often more stable than those who marry later. Teen marriage divorce rates are high, but those who choose and commit in their early 20s often last. Van Epp cites a study done by Tim Heaton, who found that those who settle down early, don’t play around and don’t cohabitate are more likely to find longevity and happiness in their marriage.
“Furthermore, there may actually be increased risks associated with delaying marriage to the end of your 20s or into your 30s. For instance, waiting to get married often leads to more premarital sex, premarital cohabitation, and premarital births, which are all associated with higher rates of marital instability. In addition, there is a smaller selection pool as you reach your early 30s (by age 30, 75 percent of the population are married). At that point, the chances of achieving a quality relationship lower because of the difficulty with finding a suitable partner,” Van Epp wrote.
Van Epp argues that what happens in one relationship carries over into other relationships.
“[W]hat occurs in relationships, no matter how insignificant, carries some measure of influence on you, the way you think and what you take into your next relationship,” Van Epp said.
As scripture says, in what is both an encouragement and a warning, “You reap what you sow.”
Research has shown that what most people really want is to find one person and settle down for life. No one desires divorce. We are made to connect and commit (animals may be promiscuous, and that is one of the reasons we call them animals and not human). Animals cannot choose freely, be moral or practice justice.
Hook ups preclude the formation of loving and life giving relationships and therefore are inherently unjust. Hooking up often doesn’t even result in good sex. Hooks ups are mostly horny, alcohol soaked bodies engaging more in mutual masturbation than in true love making.
We need to learn how to love. Our culture and society need to practice reconciliation, the putting back together of that which is broken by sinfulness, selfishness and enslavement.
Sex is like dynamite. Used wisely and well, our sexual powers make for liberty, love and life. Used indiscriminately and stupidly, sex explodes and destroys those who use and abuse one another.
Our souls are imprinted by our choices. “It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities,” Dumbledore told Harry.
Find the courage and wisdom to choose what is sane, moral and just. Avoid the insanity and destructiveness of the hook up culture. Strive to be real. Real men and real women form real relationships, long and life lasting unions that lead to faith in one another and God. Don’t be afraid. Have the courage to choose love and life. Your kids will thank you.
REV. Richard G. Malloy, S.J., Ph. D.