The Most Connected/DIS-Connected Generation: The “Age of the Hook-Up”

Lisa Barr, Editor of GIRLilla Warfare: Cut this blog out, hand it to your daughters, or to those you know with daughters … then pass it forward. This piece embodies the sexual culture of this generation in a nutshell. I ask myself: Is Romance Dead?

Communication has never been more fluid, more instantly-gratified, likes/dislikes — “comments” 24/7 — but how will our kids function on a real date, as in face-to-face? In an age where there is no such thing as courtship or “build-up”, will our daughters respect their bodies and understand the correlation between sex and love? The Hook-Up (HU) is this generation’s easy, quick means of expressing desire … but where does love fit in? 

Jessica Jaksich, a talented college journalist (You Go, Girl … and Keep On Going), tackled the tough topic of  “Sex, Whatever” … and shares what really goes on behind-the-scenes, beneath the sheets. She tells our Young Women that YES, they CAN set limits … 

By Jessica Jaksich

Question 1: Please arrange the following sequence of events in the correct order:

A)   Getting to know each other

B)   Sleepovers

C)   Initial introductions

D)   First kiss

E)    Dinner date

Hmm … that’s easy. You meet a guy out at a bar, exchange numbers, and two days later, he calls to ask you out to dinner. Right?

WRONG! You just failed your first quiz. But don’t panic! I’m about to teach you everything you need to know to understand today’s Hook-Up Culture.

For starters, the correct answer is: C, D, B, A, and (if you’re really lucky) E.

I know, not the answer you were looking for. Unfortunately, you’re not going to like everything you learn in school. We’ll begin with a few college examples.

 Exhibit A

A girl and a guy meet out at a frat party, a bar or a club. They get to talking, one thing leads to another, and before long they “do a little dance, make a little love,” well, you know the rest. Clothes will be swapped, phone numbers will be exchanged (for texting only, of course), and both guy and girl will be forced to make the very best out of two utterly awkward situations: the morning after and the Walk of Shame. A few “Hey”s and “What r u up to?”s might be sent and received, but overall, communication will be very limited until they see each other out at night again, and the whole cycle repeats itself.

 Exhibit B

Guy and girl are starting to talk more frequently. They might hang out on a school night, or meet up in the library to study. They might even talk to each other when there isn’t the opportunity to see each other. However, no “exclusive” commitments have actually been made.

Exhibit C

Just as things are starting to take a turn toward Boyfriendland, it fizzles. Texts go unanswered, campus run-ins become awkward, and said girl is left with two options:

1)    Pretend she doesn’t care. Whether she continues to hook up with him or not, she’ll diminish all former expectations, begin to treat the relationship like the nothing that it is, and act “chill,” even when her mind is going crazy with questions.

2)    Call the guy out on his M.I.A. behavior and risk being accused of being TOO attached and/or acting like a girlfriend.

So, there you have it, the sad sad truth of college relationships. Of course, the problem doesn’t start in college.

Whether it’s a late-night hangout at the frat house, or a “basement booty call” after the high school Homecoming dance — the pattern is all the same.

As we know, there are exceptions to every rule. Not all high school and college relationships follow the above pattern. Not all romance is dead. You’ll know you’re dealing with an “exception” when other girls are giddy over the stories.

I was once set up with “an exception” for a fraternity date function, and my friends responded to his every action as follows:

“OMGGG! Ahhhhh!”

“You’re a princess.”

“Ugh, swoon.”

All because he picked up the phone to ask me to his date party, and invited me to lunch BEFORE he ever kissed me.

 So, yes, these rom-com beginnings do exist, and yes, several of my friends do have boyfriends. However, GENERALLY speaking, the pick-you-up-at-your-doorstep-with-a-rose customs of our parents’ generation simply don’t exist anymore.

The dating culture is just a thing of the past. Or at least you’ll have to wait a few months (and several hookups) into your relationship before the roses and dinner dates show up.

While some girls are capable of handling a “No Strings Attached” setup, many of us are not cut out for the job.

The world of hook-ups, breakups and waking up next to guys we barely know in turn leaves us feeling pretty down about ourselves. But other than signing a “NO BOYS” pledge at the start of our teen years, what’s a girl to do?

First, we have to set limits. Maybe we’re fine with the occasional make out session, but any below-the-belt action crosses the line. Or maybe we’re down to take it up a notch, as long as we’re getting the texts we want the next day. The earlier we figure this out, the better.

In high school, many limits are set for us. Things like driving permits, curfew and parents minimize the frequency of co-ed sleepovers and “friends with benefits” arrangements. While we protest these rules and regulations non-stop, it is no doubt easier to manage today’s Hook-up Culture with Mom and Dad right down the hall. Parents who set rules like: “No more than two basement hangouts before you have to go out on a date” are actually helping us out in the long run.

It is important to figure out what we are and aren’t comfortable with when we’re in high school, because it only gets harder to set limits once we enter the free-for-all college atmosphere.

Second, we have to work to improve our social and interpersonal skills in the face of the iWorld that now dominates so much of our daily communication. I know we all complain that dating has died, but if it were revived, would we even know what to do? Are we so used to texting and Facebook chats that we become awkward and mute when confronted with face-to-face interaction?

I cannot tell you how many times my Mom has said, “Just pick up the phone and call him!” and she’s right. Whether we are talking to a guy friend, a girl friend or even our parents, we need to put away our phones at dinner, make phone calls when we feel like texting, and insist on Skyping when it would be easier to just instant message. That way, when the right guy does come around, we won’t be so socially inept that we screw up the date we’ve waited years for.

This brings me to my last point: Waiting. We have to be patient, and, as my mom has stressed, this might mean accepting that the serious dating thing won’t happen until we are out of college and relationships can be formed at the dinner table, not at a fraternity’s beer pong table.

These years are about figuring out who we are, and spending time with best friends. No one ever failed out of school because they didn’t pass the boyfriend test. We can survive high school or college without a guy, and we will.

As my parents, my friends, and my favorite “angry girl” musicians (Pink, T. Swift, Beyonce) have taught me, it is in fact better to be alone than to settle for treatment we’re not okay with.

So for now, let’s get to know ourselves, learn to love ourselves, and just for kicks, put our phones away from time to time.

Until next week, class dismissed.

LB:  Jessica Jaksich is a senior at Emory University where she is majoring in English/Creative writing with a minor in Media Studies. She serves as Editor-in-Chief of Her Campus Emory. (http://www.hercampus.com/school/emory), an online magazine for college women, and is a guest blogger for Seventeen.com, where she spent last summer as an editorial intern. Jessica is a suburban girl at heart, and says she loves reading Girlilla Warfare with her Mom!


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