By Tonya Cox
“The behavior of a human being in sexual matters is often a prototype for the whole of his other modes of reaction in life.” ~ Sigmund Freud
“It is an unprecedented time in the United States in the history of sexuality” claims the America Psychological Association from a study released four years ago. The age most adults marry has gone up, while the onset of puberty has begun earlier. This has created a generation of young adults that are physically capable of reproducing yet socially refraining from engaging in long-term, committed relationships like marriage. Researchers theorize that these factors play a part in supporting the new “hookup” culture that flourishes across American college campuses today. “Hook-up activities may include a wide range of sexual behaviors, such as kissing, oral sex, and penetrative intercourse. However, these encounters often transpire without any promise of — or desire for — a more traditional romantic relationship.” This model is engrained in young adults with 80% of students reporting sexual involvement. College students who participate in penetrative sex hookups are 600% more likely to continue this behavior over the course of their college semester. This sexual trend similarly surges among adolescents as 70% of sexually active teenagers between the ages of 12 and 21 report participating in hookups within the last year.
Emerging studies show us the effects this hookup culture is having on our young adults. Both men and woman involved in hookups were found to have overall lower self-esteem scores when compared with young people not engaging in this behavior. They also reported higher rates of depression and loneliness. In women, the degree of depression increased with the number of partners. Young adults experience many different feelings but 72-74% reported regrets about their sexual encounters. This regret results in guilt and negative feelings with women displaying more negative reactions than men. Not much in the research shows a positive effect of this new hookup culture.
While the majority of young adults are actively engaging in this non-committed sexual activity 29% of men and 43% of women ideally want a relationship to flourish following a hookup experience. Researchers report, “It is likely that a substantial portion of emerging adults today are compelled to publicly engage in hookups while desiring both immediate sexual gratification and more stable romantic attachments.” Despite this sexually permissive culture, some young people are taking a stand against this practice. Instead of joining the crowd they join the Anscombe Society.
The Anscombe Society is named after Elizabeth Anscombe, a Cambridge analytic philosopher and proponent of sexual ethics. This society is a non-religious collegiate student organization and thrives at Ivy League schools like Princeton and Harvard where they celebrate 12 years. This society has also seen growth at such prestigious universities as MIT as well as private universities like Catholic University of America in Washington D.C. This society offers support and community for those students who do not wish to engage in the hookup culture invading campuses across North America. They work to equip students with the understanding and reason as well as principles needed to hold a sexual ethic and celebrate their sexuality without exploiting it. Members of the society host events and student outreach programs to challenge current thoughts about sexuality through lectures, public debates, film screenings, and discussions. They do not seek to pass moral judgement, but to inform students about the benefits of sexual morality. They are, “advocates for a conscientious view of sexuality that strengthens American marriages, fortifies civil society, and contests the merits of a hyper-sexualized culture.”
One such advocacy event The Anscombe society sponsored just took place. The Love and Fidelity Network, also supporting healthy views of sexuality on college campuses, held their 10th annual conference on Sexuality, Integrity, and the University at Princeton University. It was free for anyone to watch live and is still available for viewing. The conference, “Brings together students, scholars, and experts from across the country to equip the next generation of leaders with the best academic resources and arguments they need to bring the message of love and fidelity back to their campuses.” In the midst of the overly-sexualized campus, many students are listening and responding to their message.
By description, sexual hookups offer the glamour of sex, free of any strings attached. Despite their increasing commonality and acceptance, emerging studies submit that these sexual hookups may leave more strings attached than many young adults expect or desire. Sexual hookups, with all of their “strings”, do not need to dominate the emerging adult culture. Students need to know they do not need to conform. They have options. Some young people are taking a stand and the research supports them in shunning the ‘hookup’ culture. We can help by spreading the news and getting societies like The Anscombe Society established on every campus in America creating a safe place for our college students to build healthy relationships. They can discover they do have options besides the current sexual messages and expectations of modern society. Our young adults can realize the benefits of abstinence, the merits of sexual integrity, and promote the role of marriage and family in society.