Being a member of the older generation I can see that the hookup culture can lead to what New York Magazine calls “sketchy sexual situations.”
Traditional courtship was obviously designed to prevent such sketchy sexual situations. It was designed to empower and to protect women. Now, with courtship having been eliminated in favor of hooking up, young people are beginning to see that the new culture can easily produce misunderstandings that can lead to assaults.
It’s not so much a question of what percentage of college students have hooked up or will hook up. What matters courtship has fallen out of favor, to the point where young people’s lives are sexualized far more than they were, say, a half century ago. College students may not hook up very often, but they seem to have dispensed with dating also.
Two college students, away from home for the first time, possessing slightly underdeveloped prefrontal cortexes, drunk out of their minds, are very likely to engage in risky situations where intentions are difficult to read. And, some of them are not even clear to themselves about their intentions or wishes.
In order to try to control the fallout from the hookup culture colleges are now awash in affirmative consent laws. Of course, we are all in favor of affirmative consent, but how can you know or tell. New York Magazine has a list of what college students have taken to be affirmative consent. Link here. They range from the sublime to the ridiculous.
Since the young generation has overthrown custom, it seems resigned to seeing these issues adjudicated in a courtroom in a criminal trial. You might think that the police are women’s best friends in such situations, but it turns out that the threat of incarceration is far less potent as a deterrent than the threat of facing her angry brother.
Among those who are doing a serious disservice to young women are those who tell them that they can do what they please and that when anything bad happens, they are not at fault. Risky behavior comports risks. If you are willing to assume responsibility for the risks, go ahead. When bad things happen, the person who hurt you ought certainly to be prosecuted, but it is unlikely that you will find that to be an ample consolation.
As my friend Susan Brownmiller, who has been a leading anti-rape activist for decades, said:
They [young women] have been tremendously influenced by the idea that "You can drink as much as you want because you are the equal of a guy," and it is not true. They don't accept the fact there are predators out there, and that all women have to take special precautions. They think they can drink as much as men, which is crazy because they can't drink as much as men. I find the position "Don't blame us, we're survivors" to be appalling.
Culture may tell you, "You can drink as much as men," but you can't. People think they can have it all ways. The slut marches bothered me, too, when they said you can wear whatever you want. Well sure, but you look like a hooker. They say, "That doesn't matter," but it matters to the man who wants to rape. It's unrealistic. I don't know what happened to the understanding people had in the 1970s.
Brownmiller points out that sexual assault is a more significant problem outside of campuses, but our imaginations are drawn more naturally to the problems of the elites, of those who attend elite educational institutions.
One should assess the fact that beyond a new set of parietal rules, one of the best antidotes to the misunderstandings that turn into assaults is: sex with someone you know. I would say that it is best to have sex with someone you love, but that would mark me as a hopeless anachronism.
Part of the problem in anonymous encounters is the increased possibility for misunderstandings. The better you know a person the better you can read his or her signals. The better you know a person the less you have to say out loud. The better you know a person the more you will be inclined to behave properly and respectfully.
Moreover, if you do not know the person who is lying next to you, drunk and naked at 4:00 a.m. you will be more likely to treat her (or him) disrespectfully. You will not expect to have to see him or her, no less to live your life with him or her the next day.
This means that young people will reduce the risk of misinterpreting signals if they get to know each other. It requires something that is very much akin to a relationship.
Unfortunately, too many young women in college do not want relationships. They have learned that relationships are an encumbrance, an obstacle to their career advancement. When Princeton parent Susan Patton suggested that college girls devote their dating experience to the task of finding husbands feminists freaked out. They believed that Patton was trying to turn these young women into domestic slaves.
So, we read a student’s impassioned assertion that regardless of what she did, she did not consent to have sex. New York Magazine reports:
To older generations, the suggestion that hookup culture could be leading to sketchy sexual situations makes complete sense. But in certain circles on campus today, this link is extremely controversial. To suggest that women may put themselves at risk by hooking up — by getting blackout drunk, by getting into bed with someone they do not know — is considered to be an offensive example of victim-blaming. In a recent essay in the Harvard Crimson called “Here’s How I Was Raped,” student Viviana Maymi articulates this point of view: “Everyone has the right to get as drunk as they want to without the threat of being raped … Victims did not ‘put themselves in that situation’ as a result of having been drunk … When a drunk driver enters a car, he knows he is impaired, which is why he is responsible for the death of the person he runs over. Likewise, at a party, a perpetrator knows he is impaired, and should be held accountable for the drunken assumptions he makes and acts on.”
I am not sure why she thinks that drunk drivers know they are impaired. Many of them think they have everything completely under control. We do know that people who are blind drunk lose impulse control and lose the ability to exercise judgment. Again, I would also point out that the only way young people seem to have left to regulate their dating behavior is the long arm of the law. Perhaps the defense will work in the courtroom. Perhaps it will not. The question is: why take the risk?
The article continues by saying that “hookup culture,” meaning, young women, are “surprisingly idealistic,” meaning naïve and deluded. Note the use of euphemisms. The author does not want to name the individuals who might be responsible for their behavior and she does not want to tax them with anything less than the virtue of being idealistic.
One does not quite understand why these young women believe that it is good to trust strangers, drunken strangers, at that. Whoever it was who told them to trust strangers did them a serious disservice:
Despite the risks, hookup culture has become surprisingly idealistic, based on a sense of trust that you can take a fellow student home and nothing bad will happen. “The very idea that one should be able to go out and drink and wear sexy clothes and not be sexually assaulted is something that did not even cross the minds of women that are older than me. They thought sexual assault was a guarantee if women were behaving like this,” says Elizabeth Armstrong, a University of Michigan sociologist who studies sexuality. “This generation is surprised they are not as safe as they thought they were, and as they think they should be, and as they are entitled to be. What they are asking for and expecting is where we need to go. But the fact they are surprised we haven’t gotten there yet puts women in terrible risk.”
You build up trust for another person through a series of transactions occurring over a period of time. To imagine that you can trust someone you met a half-hour ago is absurd to the point of being delusional. The less you know the person the less you will be able to read him or her. The younger you are the less skilled you will be at reading people, in general, no matter what:
But the very nature of the hookup may make people less attuned to, or even interested in, what’s going on with their partner. “I think hooking up and emotionless sex is great,” says David, a senior who identifies as queer. “Love it, love third-wave feminism, do what you want with your body. But hookup culture is inherently bad because you’re hooking up with people you don’t care about, so you’re not concerned about their safety. I don’t think you’re as worried about this random person feeling weird about it the next day, because you don’t know who they are.”
Note the last phrase: “you don’t know who they are.” If you don’t know who they are, how can you know what they do or do not want? And how can you feel responsible toward someone when you don't know who they are. And, if you don’t know who they are, how can you know who you are, what you want and what you should do.
As I said, one way to strike a blow against the rape culture is to have sex with someone you know.