So my first blog is going to be about the issues and questions in the book that I’ve just finished reading, and as a sociologist and more importantly, as a single gal in the 21st century, I have found that the book has left me with more questions and slightly less hope for our generation when it comes to sex, love and modern day dating… poopy.
‘The End of Sex’ by Donna Freitas talks about the hook-up culture that dominates our experiences, ideas and actions in our modern day relationships and connection to sex and intimacy (or lack of!). Freitas surveyed 2,500 students from various American universities, and extensively interviews 111 of these students. Her main mission was to investigate how and why the hook up culture deprives people of opportunities to fulfill true meanings and desire, while holding sex as the main goal, although it ultimately leaves many feeling isolated and lonely. As a consequence of our quest to tolerate the hook-up norm and indulge ourselves in meaningless, sexual experiences, we are “unable to create valuable and real connections.”
It’s 2017. Sex is unavoidable. It’s completely commercialised, and can be found everywhere, from the stories of Mr. Grey and his naughty needs to 50 Cent rapping about taking you to his lovely candy shop… for his erm, famous lollipop… and even brands like Abercrombie and Fitch selling slogan tee’s for girls that say ‘who needs brains when you’ve got these?’ Not forgetting the huge influence and one of the biggest money making industries of our time, porn. Sex is literally everywhere. Thanks to technology, the sexual revolution and women’s empowerment, hooking-up and conversations about sex are more normal than ever. Sex is easy, fun and fast. We have more choice than ever thanks to apps like tinder, match.com, grindr, hinge, zoosk, happn, the list goes on. We have hundreds of men and women at our finger tips, how lucky are we? Does it get better than this infinite choice we now have? What could be better than sex without strings? Do we have it finally figured out, or have we got it completely wrong?
As modern day men and women, we have never been more free. Thanks to feminism and the challenging of gender roles and stereotyping, we are able to make whatever choices we like, with who we like (with consent!), with few limitations and with less judgement. So after a day of watching sex and the city, in a world full of choice and freedom, why am I not feeling more empowered?
The end of romance?
The hook-up culture is the idea of a ‘no strings attached’, purely physical and sexual encounter with another person. The encounter can vary from a 10 minute make out session, to one night stands and sex with strangers with one of you leaving promptly before breakfast, to that classic booty call on Saturday nights out in the pub where one of you texts ‘sex?’ and you grab a burger, a taxi home together, and the rest you can guess. All fun and games but hook-ups destroy the idea of happily ever after and allow minimal space for intimacy and emotion. The person who allows emotions to enter is betraying the social contract that the hook-up requires. It’s all part of the game. Is it taboo to talk about real feelings in a hook-up situation? Are we foolish to think we can have such interaction without feelings? Is this an emotion free zone? As Freitas highlights “being ‘safe’ within hook-up culture is less about practicing safe sex and more about being able to walk away from sex without any trace of an emotional tug” it seems that to turn on physically, we turn off emotionally.
Socially, we have accepted the norms surrounding the hook-up culture. It plays a part in gender and who we are as men and women. One guy in the study of this book referred to hook ups as part of a routine, like eating your bloody cereal every morning, but an important part of what is taught to be a “guy”. This gender hierarchy that exists is fixated around the stereotypes of what it means to be a male, and the pleasure the male gains, while having full support of having as many sexual partners as they like, and the ideas of a submissive female who kinda accepts the situation too. Interestingly, it’s not just women that are oppressed in this supposedly empowering culture, facing the stigma and labels of being ‘too frigid’ or ‘too slutty’, men also face risks regarding masculinity and gender stereotypes, being ‘too emotional or vulnerable’ and along with peer pressure, it’s clear to see the pressures that we all face.
Freitas argues that the callousness, robotic-ness, and bleak reality of the hook-up culture is the opposite to being sexual liberated and free. She speaks about how “we prioritise technology over face-to-face interactions, where we are missing how to value the life and body of another human, or what it means to treat others with dignity and respect”. We celebrate “steeliness” and pride ourselves on our ability to harden ourselves against compassion and empathy. Uncaring is so cool, but really, who is it benefiting? So what if we feel? Pre-warning of my criminology side coming out now, and it sounds extreme, but could this have a connection to the reason why rape is a crime crisis showing no signs of decrease, and why 120 million girls worldwide have experienced forced intercourse or other forced sexual acts at some point in their lives? (UN Women, 2012)
Are we living by contradictions? Raising boys and girls to be empowered, and full of emotion, desire and sexuality but at the same time suppressing and repressing all emotion, care and meaning when it comes to the most intimate form of all human interaction. Do we need to assess these ideas of caring less and that bodies are disposable, and that sex is just sex? Is it harmless or is it dangerous? Is it just the misunderstanding of being overly sexual rather than being ‘sex positive’?
It’s not all doom and gloom…
Don’t get me wrong, I love my single life. There is so much fun and excitement in being a modern day single guy or gal, and I’m a big believer in the idea that everyone should experience solitude at some point. Dating is fun especially in a city like London, and meeting new people and making new memories make for great life experiences (and good stories!). It’s not all bad, and there’s huge positives to our openness with sex. We’ve come a long way from the Victorian Era, that’s for sure.
But is Freitas right when she says that within the hook-up culture, no one really wins? Is silencing your feelings and real desires destroying our chances of finding fulfilling and long lasting romantic relationships? “It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy where nobody goes on real dates, because nobody thinks they want to date, and these cycles go round and round feeding the perpetuation of the hook-up culture” lol how ridiculous does that sound? Should we start being more critical with this phenomenon and start looking at the lack of basic interpersonal skills, and the idea that we’re still missing something so important to human interaction and behaviour from these experiences? Are we missing real opportunities because we’re so fixed on the notion of being ‘care-free’ and anti-relationship?
Happily ever after…?
Freitas studies suggest that although the hook-up culture is well and truly a part of our social lives, eventually people reject it. The ‘wake-up experience’ felt after a realisation of physical and emotional exhaustion, is a commonality. Eventually, people feel emptied out. And the emotional awareness is felt again (yay!), along with the realisation of the paradoxical behaviour and the need to feel what we all ultimately want in life… (thanks to Hollywood, the fairy-tale story books, Ed Sheeran and the rest of it) …meaningful love and sex.