Did you hookup last night? Well, shame on you. At least, that’s what I think Matt Green would say to you based on arguments made in his most recent column (Focus on relationships, 10/4/2011).
Apparently, Green believes those of us who choose to forego committed relationships in favor of what he calls “random hookups” are “blithely (engaging in) unhealthy behavior.” He says he would rather us all “(ask) one another out on dates or actually (build) meaningful, romantic relationships.” Now to be clear: I don’t have a problem with Green taking an orthodox position on such a controversial issue. Nor do I have a problem with the goals he’s trying to reach. What I take issue with is the presumptuous and oftentimes judgmental way he frames this debate.
All that being said, let’s explore some of Green’s arguments just a bit more in-depth, shall we? First of all, I don’t think it’s necessarily the case that hookups have to be meaningless in the way Green implies. Last I checked, it’s quite possible for me to have a hookup with someone and still remember his or her name the morning after. It’s equally possible for me to bond with my various sexual partners and still not want to be in a committed relationship. Isn’t that the definition of the term “friend-with-benefits?” But even if I wanted nothing more than to hookup with someone simply because I found him or her physically attractive, it’s not clear to me that I’m engaging in some type of morally unacceptable behavior. As long as the encounter is safe, consensual and enjoyable, I really don’t see the problem here. Green, however, is guilty of a much bigger and more paternalistic sin — namely, the projection of his normative ideas about sexuality onto others.
He then proceeds to engage us in this rather interesting, and at times borderline sexist, dialogue about the ways in which gender roles impact our so-called “hookup culture.” He notes, for instance, that he “knows plenty of men on campus who’d gladly forego the weekend hookup ritual for something a little less fleeting, if only the opportunity arose.” But even if that were true, I know just as many guys (and girls) who enjoy that weekend hookup ritual. Whether it’s because of a busy schedule, a bad dating history or something else entirely, many college students just don’t want to be in a committed relationship during this tenuous point in their life. And I, for one, think that’s a totally acceptable position to take. I’d rather people be honest with me about their intentions from the beginning than waste my time trying to change them. And as for his argument suggesting that “hookups only exacerbate emotional solitude,” there simply isn’t enough evidence to substantiate such a claim. All we have are a few short-term studies, including one from the Family Institute at Florida State University which found, “hooking up is not uniformly positive or negative in emerging adulthood in regards to psychological distress.”
Perhaps the most intriguing part of Green’s piece, though, is the call he makes for a “mass grassroots initiative to replace the hookup culture with a dating culture or at least a culture of respect.” Now maybe it’s just me, but I think there are a lot bigger problems on campus than who’s going home with who after Pride Night at Necto. But that’s beside the point. It’s much more important for people to realize that Green’s argument is indicative of the sexual hierarchy that currently exists in American society. His op-ed perpetuates the idea that it’s ok to privilege some people because of the sexual choices they make and not others. I, on the other hand, support a system wherein all forms of sexual expression are treated equally and respectfully — a system that recognizes that the pursuit of sexual gratification can be an intrinsically valuable thing in and of itself.
Sex doesn’t require emotional attachments or monogamous commitments; though admittedly, these things often do make the experience better. At the end of the day, it’s important for people to remember that we are all independent agents capable of making our own sexual decisions, and that hooking up is to one person what a relationship may be to another.
Noel Gordon is an LSA senior.