The “Modern Hookup Culture”: What the Evidence Is Saying

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Recently, I had the opportunity to share with the youth group at my church in Kernersville, North Carolina, regarding “God’s Way v. The Modern Hookup Culture.” I became interested in this topic after I was given a book entitled “Sex at First Sight: Understanding the Modern Hookup Culture” by Richard E. Simmons III that details the casual sex culture on college campuses across the country and the devastating consequences for those co-eds who engage in this now culturally accepted behavior. Prior to reading this book, I had a niece who informed me of some high school students who were brazen enough to engage in sexual behavior in the hallways of her public school. From every direction, teen and young adults are inundated with messages about the attractiveness of casual sex and alcohol usage. On a Sunday afternoon, you may be enjoying a football game with some family members and then it’s time for a commercial break. The screen quickly fills with images of scantily clad women dancing provocatively to a driving beat, with the most attractive of them holding a glistening bottle of beer. Before you are able to dive for the remote controller your preteens receive the message loud and clear…sex and alcohol together are glamorous and cool.

It is obvious that our media, with the proliferation of so many alcohol/sex driven commercials/programs, is portraying the use of alcohol in a positive light and that imbibing in that premium brand of beer will enhance your sex appeal. A paper published by the American Academy of Family Physicians conveys the implications of these broadcasts on the youth of America. Of this media barrage, the academy offers their opinion:

Although the alcohol industry maintains that its advertising aims only to increase market share and not to encourage underage persons to drink, research suggests otherwise. Alcohol advertisements overwhelmingly connect consumption of alcohol with attributes particularly important to youth, such as friendship, prestige, sex appeal and fun.

Another reason to share this message with teens is due to my exposure with fugitive sex offenders. In the last three plus years of my career with the U.S. Marshals Service, I had the opportunity to arrest/prosecute fugitive sex offenders who had absconded from various sex offender registries. Many of these fugitive sex offenders could not break free from their maladaptive sexual behaviors/crimes. It was obvious to me that many of these offenders no longer had real control of their lives as their particular sexual vice had a firm grip on them. They had been reduced to animals due to their sexual addiction. What I also found was that many of these fugitive sex offenders were not able to break free from a profound addiction to pornography. Oftentimes, when I caught up with them, they would have various types of pornography on their person or on their devices. In addition to my experience with sex offenders, I also found that alcohol abuse/drug abuse often played a part in the commission of crimes to include sex crimes and other crimes of violence.

So, because of these reasons, I believe that this message is an appropriate topic for the kids at church. Not to mention that everyone else is talking about sex. The students at school are talking about sex. The teachers are talking about sex. One of the main themes of television programming is sex. So, why doesn’t the church talk to our teens about sex (and alcohol abuse)? Why don’t we give them the tools they need to make good decisions?

Can a book thousands of years old be relevant today? The Bible gives advice on whether or not one should engage in multiple causal sexual encounters. In Matthew, 19:5, Jesus endorses the ancient description of monogamy mentioned in Genesis 2:24 as he mentions that “a woman and a man will become one flesh.” In addition to the words of Jesus instructing that one man and one woman should be together for life, Paul also discusses sexual morays in his first letter to the church at Corinth (7:1-3). In mentioning the problem of sexual immorality, Paul opines that a husband and a wife should fulfill each other’s sexual needs and that this should be within the bond of marriage. Further endorsing the view that a woman and a man should keep the “marriage bed undefiled” from adultery is the author of the Book of Hebrews. There is no doubt that these three texts from the New Testament are proclaiming the best way to engage in sexual relations is for one woman and one man to share it for a lifetime. However, is there any corroboration for this Biblical advice coming from scholarly research?

In Sex at First Sight, Richard Simmons III first describes the current state of sexual encounters among college aged adults and then delves into the data coming from studies regarding the mental/physical health of those who engage in the hookup culture. A “hookup” is a casual sexual encounter for the purpose of only pleasure without any sort of emotional bond developing. So, there is no intimacy involved nor any commitment to the one you have physically joined with. Furthermore, Simmons informs us of the disappearance of traditional dating across the country being replaced by this sort of “sexual freedom.” Again, the chief end of the hookup culture is to get as much pleasure as one can without regard for any other concern than what you get out of it for the moment.

What Simmons found in his research of those who were hooking up is that psychologists, who interviewed college co-eds, reported that these hookups were deeply wounding young men and women. Even though “locker room talk” and James Bond style movies would lead one to think that hookups are the way to live the “good life,” the research is telling a different story. The truth coming from numerous interviews is that men were ashamed of hooking up and that they really wanted to have dating relationships and emotional intimacy just like women do. After reviewing the research, Simmons opined that there is an emotional and chemical bond that is part of what God intended when two people physically unite. When the psychological aspects of sexual activity are ignored, there are devastating consequences. The data shared by Simmons shows that what the media suggests as living the “good life” is a mere illusion. Going from partner to partner only brings emotional turmoil to both  men and women.

Not only did Simmons share the emotional havoc wrought by the hookup culture, but he also shared about the physical consequences multiple sexual encounters can bring. Not so long ago there were only two STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) to contend with. Today, there are at least 25 forms of STDs that are being passed around today and the college campuses are seedbeds for their transmission. Simmons reported that a recent study revealed that 43% of female students on the UCLA campus are infected with an STD. Another effect of the hookup culture is that many become depressed. Simmons shares that the release of dopamine into the blood stream after having sex causes an emotional bond and deep attachment between the two partners. This is the beauty of sex within the confines of marriage. Two partners for life form a bond, both physically and emotionally, that will hopefully last a lifetime. However, when the emotional bonds that come with physical attachment are broken, then depression often sets in as a result of the shattered relationship. The hookup culture turns a thing of great joy into a chronic source of heartache and pain. Simmons ends his tome with several psychologists offering words of advice. In general, sacrificing pleasure now will mean that you are investing in your future sex life. Giving up something of lesser value now in order to obtain a greater good later is what Simmons recommends. Waiting for the love of your life and sharing physical intimacy with only that “special one” will cause your sex life to be hearty and satisfying. So teens and young adults don’t buy the lie. Following the advice of a book that has been around for millennia will result in a great sex life. Yes, that’s right, the research shows that you will have more fun and sexual satisfaction throughout your life if you invest now and do it God’s way.

And finally a message from Solomon to today’s single teens/young adults

Proverbs 5:

15 Drink water from your own cistern,
running water from your own well.
16 Should your springs overflow in the streets,
your streams of water in the public squares?
17 Let them be yours alone,
never to be shared with strangers.
18 May your fountain be blessed,
and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.

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