Repairing Relationships

Building intimacy and joy into your relationships

Is It Too Late to 'Reboot' Dating?

Are we doomed to the hookup culture?

Emily Esfahani Smith, Associate Editor at The New Criterion, writes this month that many women and men are dissatisfied with the so called "hook up" culture. The hookup  was defined (in the landmark study "Hooking Up, Hanging Out and Hoping For Mr. Right" by University of Texas sociology Professor Norval Glenn and Associate Scholar with the Institute For American Values, Elizabeth Marquardt) as "friends with benefits", meaning casual sex without commitment.

Ms. Smith concurs with Professor Norval and Ms. Marquardt that hooking up is not likely to lead women to the goal of an intelligent, long-term, committed relationship which might lead to marriage. But Ms. Smith  begs to differ with feminist Hanna Rosin who argues that the hook up is necessary for the social progress of women by freeing them from what 1970s feminist writer Erica Jong coined "The Slavery of Home."

Ms. Smith quotes studies that show that the hook up  is now the standard on campus with between 65% to 75% of undergraduate students reporting to have participated in the sex without commitment  custom. While Ms. Rosin says hooking up has become widespread because women are allowing it, Ms. Smith says that women don't have a choice but to comply because of the recent phenomenon of a surplus of women and a scarcity of men on campuses: "What motivation do men have to ask women out on a date when sex is so widely and easily available?"

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Ms. Smith urges women to set new terms for men and women to "reboot dating" by resurrecting "a culture where dating and romance, not casual sex, are the norm."

We are glad feminists have awakened to the fact that the current way men and women date and mate is seriously flawed.  We look at it from a slightly different angle, urging men and women to reject the current culture of mirage relationships based on the specious values of physical attraction, charm and approval seeking and seek romantic partners based on shared interests, values and goals and compatible personalities. It comes back to resurrecting the idea of courtship.

Once upon a time courtship was designed to ascertain the correct partner for each individual. There was supposed to be some discernment involved, some weeding out of inappropriate candidates, as in a job search. Today American men and women are often entertaining any personality or temperament as a potential sex partner. Instead of using the dating process to sort through potential lovers to determine compatibility and shared interests, today college students are jumping in the sack with anyone who will meet their basic standards on physical attraction and deportment. Later  they may be shocked when the lover that held them close that night  refuses to acknowledge them in the library the next day or, on the other extreme, begins to stalk them. Unfortunately in 21st Century America the common sense notion of  being careful about who you let into your life has been lost. We join enlightened feminsts in the call to reclaim it.


J.R. Bruns, M.D., is co-author of The Tiger Woods Syndrome, a book about repairing relationships.


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