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Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Virginia 

Avoiding the Hook-Up Sinkhole: Personal Faith and Parental Fidelity


Bryce J. Christensen and Nicole M. King


Nothing reveals the hellish consequences of the Sexual Revolution more than the emergence on American campuses of a new “hook-up” culture involving all kinds of polymorphous sex and no kind of moral or even emotional commitment. Because their own radical ideologies helped incubate this world of subhuman coupling, the university scholars who study such behaviors have been extremely loath to acknowledge that the hook-up culture is not part of the best of all possible worlds. But some evils are too palpable for even a twenty-first-century Pangloss to ignore.  

Because of accumulating evidence that perhaps, just perhaps, some people—especially women—are being hurt in the sexual free-for-all that progressive theorizing has let loose, researchers at Brown and Syracuse Universities recently looked closely at the hook-up culture to identify those characteristics that bring female students into the hookup vortex and those characteristics that keep them out. As it turns out, a personal outlook (religious faith) and a family circumstance (an intact parental marriage) both shield against this nightmare of boundless and frenetic carnality.

As an understandable preliminary to their investigation, the Syracuse and Brown researchers define just what “hooking up” means. Though they acknowledge that “casual sex can be considered a form of hooking up,” they see the hooking-up phenomenon as something “distinct” and broader. Hooking up refers to “a variety of sexual behaviors” (not just intercourse). What is more, “hookup partners usually know each other (e.g., friends) and may hook up on multiple occasions.” The researchers believe that hooking up is also recognizable by a prevalence that now runs so high that it “appears to be a normative experience of young people attending college today.” A defining characteristic of hookup is also manifest in the way that those who participate in it manifest a “desire to delay or avoid romantic relationships . . . in favor of self-development during the college years.” 

Because the politically correct now must endorse the Sexual Revolution, the researchers strain to see ways in which such loveless encounters can make participants feel “attractive, desirable, and empowered,” open opportunities for “sexual pleasure, excitement, and fun,” give young people the experience of “feeling close to someone momentarily,” and introduce them to “new friends or potential romantic partners.” They go so far as to affirm—sola fide—that “sexual exploration is developmentally appropriate for emerging adults.”

Yet even academics invested in this kind of post-modern amoralism might be troubled by evidence of “an association between hookup behavior and depressive symptoms, low self-esteem, and sexual regret” among women. They might be concerned by reports that “women may be more vulnerable than men to emotional distress after hookups due to their greater desire for hookups to become romantic relationships, pressure from male hookup partners to go further sexually than they want, and a muted but persistent sexual ‘double standard.’” They might be alarmed by “evidence [that] indicates that hooking up may increase women’s risk of experiencing sexual victimization” and by the apparent likelihood that hooking up means “increase[d] risk for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) due to . . . multiple and/or concurrent partners.”

With such issues in view, the authors of this new study probe data collected from 483 female freshman students. Not surprisingly, the predictors of hook-up behavior that stand out in the data include “impulsivity, sensation-seeking, pre-college hookups, alcohol use, marijuana use, [and] social comparison orientation.”

Also unsurprising are the “protective factors” (and no adjective was ever more apt!) keeping young women out of the hookup cesspool: “religiosity, self-esteem, religious service attendance, and having married parents.”

To be sure, some of these protective factors provide broader and stronger protection than others.  Self-esteem, for instance, protects only by depressing the number—not occurrence—of certain types of hookups. Interestingly, religious-service attendance likewise affords only very limited protection against certain kinds of hookups. 

To explain why attending religious services affords the students in their study such limited protection against the hookup black hole, the researchers plausibly conjecture that freshman students may “not yet have established a new place of worship . . . and academic and social demands may also keep students from attending religious services.” In contrast, the data indicate that “subjective religiosity” gives young women a more “consistent protective effect” against the hookup world. Apparently, religious convictions in the heart do more to keep young women out of hookups than does involvement with a church or synagogue.

The data do show that hookups are significantly less likely among women with married parents than among peers without married parents, prompting the researchers to remark that “having married parents may provide a model of more conventional relationships and sexual behavior,” a model that contrasts sharply with hooking up.

In their conclusion, the researchers proffer the narrowly hygienic assertion that “campus-based sexual education and health promotion efforts are warranted to minimize the harms that hookups involving risky behavior (e.g., unprotected sex, sex while intoxicated) might cause.” But despite all they know about how hookups put young women at risk, the Syracuse and Brown researchers lack the moral strength to confront the hookup culture squarely. Astonishingly, these morally incapacitated scholars assert that “calls for interventions to prevent hooking up lack an empirical justification.”  

As an ever-greater number of young women are sucked into a hookup riptide that leaves them emotionally and morally maimed, Americans can be sure that the thinking of the progressive professoriate is not a “protective factor.” Better far to rely on religious faith and married parents.

(Robyn L. Fielder et al., “Predictors of Sexual Hookups: A Theory-Based, Prospective Study of First-Year College Women,” Archives of Sexual Behavior 42.8[2013]: 10.117/s10508-013-0106-0, Web.)

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