Spar begins by explaining that the courting/dating culture that was common prior to the sexual revolution no longer exists. Today’s young men no longer ask women out on dates or to go steady. Instead they “hook up” - a boy meets a girl at a party and takes her home for sex. In one recent survey of college students, 75 percent of the male respondents and 84 percent of the females reported having hooked up at least once during their college years. (Pg. 68)
Spar feels this greater sexual freedom has resulted in a loss of power for women:
There’s something about hooking up that seems to reflect a diminution of women’s choices rather an expansion, a decrease in women’s power rather than a rise.Then there is the money proponent:
Ultimately the crux of the matter is whether women truly enjoy the freedom that comes from uncommitted sex. And it’s not clear that they do. Instead, as Stepp reports in Unhooked: How Young Women Pursue Sex, Delay Love and Lose at Both, many of the women who embrace the hookup culture for some period of time (usually their freshman year of college) later come to regret it. Rather than feeling empowered by their conquests, they feel abandoned by the men they thought might be their boyfriends. Rather than whisking blithely from one affair to the next, they are waiting by the phone (now, at least conveniently in their pocket) for last night’s encounter to call them back. Because the hookup is so clearly not about commitment, though, he rarely does. And the women are left, longing for something they swore they didn’t want. (Pg. 70)
Sex has long been connected to some underlying notion of exchange; to some sense, in other words, that each of the parties in a sexual relationship was getting something- be it property or pleasure or a lifetime of protection – out of it. Hooking up challenges this historical relationship. Echoing the anthem of the sexual revolution, it presumes that men and women are free to have sex whenever they want, with whomever they want, and with no commitment implied by the act.While reading this chapter, I couldn’t help but be reminded of a young woman who lived in my dormitory my freshman year of college. I distinctly remember the afternoon a group of us were sitting around discussing our Saturday night plans when this girl announced she hoped to get lucky. If a guy could have a one-night stand without anyone thinking twice about it, she could too. Later that year, I would find her crying in the restroom because a boy was no longer interested in hooking up with her. A year or two later I would run into her again, she would confide she had just had an abortion. She hadn’t even liked her baby’s father yet terminating her pregnancy was one of the hardest decisions of her life.
The question, though, is whether women truly get equal value from a relationship based on “free” sex. Are they equally content to give-and get-sex for nothing, or have they perhaps given men what they want (easy, cheap sex) without getting much in return? (Pg. 72)
Eventually, she would marry and have two daughters.
I would meet her for drinks a few years ago when she was visiting in my area. Her former hook-up lifestyle came up in conversation. This was not the life she wanted for her daughters.
As to the loss of power, I wouldn’t want to go back to the era where women were treated as possessions or a man felt he had to marry a women who became pregnant (then would abuse her), but I do think something can be said for waiting a bit before having sex. People tend to appreciate something they have to work for a little bit more.
This quote from Terry Tempest William’s book When Women Were Birds is a good example of why the hook-up experience is different for a woman than a man:
Because what every woman knows each month when she bleeds is, I am not pregnant. Because what every woman understands each time she makes love is, Life could be in the making now. Which is why when a woman allows a man to enter her, it is not just a physical act, but an act of surrendering to the possibility that her life may no longer be hers alone. Because until she bleeds, she will check her womb every day for the stirrings of life. Because until she bleeds, she wonders if her life will be one or two or three. Because until she bleeds, she imagines every possibility from pleasure to pain to birth to death and how she will do what she needs to do, and until she bleeds, she will worry endlessly, until she bleeds.Today’s question again comes from The Reading Group Guides discussion questions for Wonder Women:
Compared to women who courted and married before the sexual revolution, do unmarried women today do a better or worse job managing love, money, and sex in the context of their relationships? Do you agree with Spar that greater sexual freedom has meant a loss of power for women? Have men lost anything?