Monday, April 1, 2013

Sure, Blame Feminism for the Hook-up Culture

Interesting article in The Atlantic magazine today about how interviewer Freitas determined the hook-up culture is not all that it's cracked up to be. It argues that hooking up is, well, boring most of the time, or leads to unsatisfying sex. This makes sense. How are people supposed to get good at sex if all of their experience are drunken one-night stands?

Stereotypes aside (the article features much anecdotal evidence, if no statistics), it's an interesting way of giving people and excuse to opt-out of the hook-up culture without seeming like a Puritanical prude. It reminds me of something (god help me) Stephanie Meyer once said about Edward and Bella's relationship (before all the BDSM of their marriage night),"I get some pressure to put a big sex scene in," Meyer says. "But you can go anywhere for graphic sex. It's harder to find a romance where they dwell on the hand-holding. I was a late bloomer. When I was 16, holding hands was just--wow" (Time).

Sounds pretty good. Why settle for mediocre sex when you can get great hand-holding (and more)? This reminds me of "The Woman Who Loved to Make Vaginas Happy" from The Vagina Monologues, where it is stated that "moans are connected with not getting what you want right away."

When we fall in love, a smorgasbord of chemicals in our brains make us lose appetite, develop OCD, but also make us very, very happy. That only lasts for about a year though. Some scientists have used that as evidence that humans aren't made for monogamy. There are even love addicts now, that go in search of a new partner as soon as the hormonal and neurotransmitter high fades. In a way, this may seem like an endorsement of of hook-up culture, but hey--a year. That's a long time to be with someone in these hook-up times.

In any case, assuming that hook-up culture is boring, what is one to do? The article argues that the solutions Freitas are not viable. That's reasonable when the only proposed solution seems to be for adults to warn young adults of the dangers of unsatisfying hook-ups. Any viable inroads on this subject probably have to come from within the generation itself, such as in young adult TV (Girls portrays sex as pretty mediocre most of the time), facebook groups, etc.

My real issue with the article though, is that it states Freitas "feminism a pass, even while acknowledging that many feminist writers have welcomed the destruction of the traditional date, because such courting rituals 'propped up patriarchy,' as one feminist critic quoted in the book put it."

Since when has feminism ever gotten a pass? Most people don't even know what feminism is, or at least it's definition is very much in dispute, with people all up in arms every time a celebrity like Zooey Deschanel or Stephanie Meyer or Marissa Mayer choose to embrace or not embrace the label. The problem is that there have been at least three movements of feminism, and they don't always agree with each other.

It's probably somewhere between the 2nd and the 3rd movement that the traditional date was destroyed though. It probably propped up patriarchy because . . . men asked women out? Men paid for the dates? Sorry, but it seems pretty easy to resurrect the traditional date with feminist trappings: go Dutch! And yes, women can ask men out too sometimes (even if most date books which dabble in evolutionary psychology advise against this). And yes, women can arrange dates as well!

My boyfriend (now my fiance) and I did all three. I told him that I liked him, and we mutually decided where to go for a date. At the end of the date I told him that I believed in going Dutch, which he had no problem with (though he subverted the practice by buying me chocolate bars). When we go out nowadays? The planning? All me. Which seems to be the norm among married couples. (It's called "invisible work.") Every once in awhile in complains, but then again he doesn't have any alternatives (besides staying home, and since we stay home 80% of the time, I win the 20% of the time I arrange dates).

In short, while "it seems legitimate to wonder if feminism has unwillingly equalized the sexual playing field to allow women the freedom to behave with as much recklessness as men, as Ariel Levy argued in Female Chauvinist Pigs" whatever's done can be undone. The pendulum continues to swing. While, sure, feminists want the freedom to act like chauvinist pigs without any more condemnation than male chauvinist pigs, that doesn't mean that we all want to be chauvinist pigs, anymore than all men want to be chauvinist pigs. I don't believe feminism is women becoming like men. I think feminism is men and women becoming like each other. Somewhere in that middle ground, maybe we can not participate in hook-up culture without becoming Puritanical prudes.

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