Thursday, April 1, 2010

Hooking Up and Sexual Assault

There is something positive surreal about the hook up culture. If you are not directly involved in it or do not know someone who is, you are likely to think that it must be someone's fantasy. For some the fantasy might be alarmist; for others prurient. In either case the hook up culture does not seem quite real.

Simply put, the people who are actively participating in the hook up culture are not living in the real world. Trapped in a fiction they are disrespecting themselves and those with whom they hook up.

After all, it took millennia to establish a culture of dating and courtship in which young women would be able to choose their husbands freely. Overcoming arranged marriage was a great advance for civilization. Replacing it with random, anonymous sexual encounters, often taking place in an alcohol-induced fog, does not seem like a great leap forward for women, or for anyone else.

Let's put our natural skepticism on hold and listen to a Boston University undergraduate: "At BU, as with a lot of other colleges in America, there's not really much of a dating culture. It's more of a hook-up culture." Link here. Via Susan Walsh on Twitter.

Now, we also learn, via the same article, that the hook up culture has produced one unhappy unintended consequence. Better yet, let's call it collateral damage. Because of the hook up culture certain kinds of sexual assault are more frequent and much harder to prosecute.

As one college student put it: "Drinking has become such a norm in the college sexual culture that when inappropriate or aggressive acts take place because of it, these transgressions are all too often dismissed as normal occurrences because of their safe place under the umbrella of collegiate sexual culture."

What is going on here? Perhaps young women are being taught that they should explore their sexuality by hooking up. Or maybe, they have been told that hooking up is the only way they will ever have a boyfriend. But they cannot do it without getting very drunk.

We also know that extreme inebriation produces a state of confusion, in the minds of both male and female students. The woman does not consent, but does not say No. The man, drunk and confused himself, assumes that the absence of No means Yes. Once the woman awakens from her stupor and discovers what happened she knows that she did not consent to it, but does not have strong enough grounds to file a complaint.

The hook up culture creates its own kind of sexual marketplace, one that induces women to discard the old fashioned dating culture, where they could engage in the kind of protracted negotiation that would allow them to make an informed choice of sexual partners. In the absence of any other form of customary mating ritual, the situation has become anarchic, with women the most prominent victims.

All talk about liberating female sexuality from the constraints of patriarch oppression, especially from outmoded dating and courtship rituals, sounded good at the time. How better to learn how to explore one's sexuality.

But if the reality, i.e. the practical consequence, involves dead drunk college students having sex because it is the new normal... then some of those who were promoting this liberation have some serious explaining to do.

1 comment:

There's No Place Like Om said...

Stuart, it doesn't begin and end with young people. I know several older adults in their 40s and 50s out on the dating scene and it's the same b.s.

Heck, EVEN SENIOR CITIZENS are jumping in the sack on the first date. No joke.

Um, I blame porn???


I don't know what to attribute it to actually.