People wonder why it is that the hookup culture has risen as rapidly as it has, with some still seemingly taken aback by millennial apathy towards dating. Too often, those concerned with these developments look immediately to blame men for the devaluation of relationships.
Men are dogs, some say.
“Young guys just want to play the field,” say others.
A few posit that “Men don’t value good women.”
Some just ask themselves (and society in general) “Where did all the good men go?”
The list goes on. Take a trip around Tumblr, Facebook or any mainstream media/social media venue online and you’ll see a host of critiques of male failure to uphold the relationship. These shortsighted arguments that look solely to the male sex as the source of the hookup culture’s rise ignore a crucial reality: the role of young women, and the conscious effort on their part to move away from the meaningful relationship and toward the more informal hookup culture.
Recently, Leslie Bell took the time to expose this reality on The Atlantic:
Ambitious young women in their 20s feel they shouldn’t want relationships with men at this phase in their lives…
…When I talk to real women, as I did in researching my book on sexual freedom and 20-something women, I hear young women’s mixed feelings about relationships. Some young women deeply desire meaningful relationships with men, even as they feel guilty about those desires. Many express the same sentiment again and again: “Why do I, a young and highly educated woman in the 21st century, value relationships with men so highly?” To do so feels like a betrayal of themselves, of their education, and of their achievements…
… Katie, a 25-year-old woman I spoke with as part of my research, confided that she worried her single-minded pursuit of a graduate degree might limit her ability to meet a man with whom she could build a life… She felt deeply ashamed by such thoughts, worried that they signaled weakness and dependence, qualities she did not admire. To put such a high premium on relationships was frightening to Katie. She worried that it meant she wasn’t liberated and was still defined by traditional expectations of women. I have heard Katie’s dilemma from countless young women.
Here rests my largest critique of modern feminism. Somewhere along the line, it began to preach a message that went beyond the mere encouragement of equal treatment and the maintenance of female choice. Instead, it began sending the message that to be a truly “empowered” woman in the feminist mold, females had to move entirely away from “old” ways (traditional relationships, marriage, motherhood, etc).
The end result? Women who feel guilty building anything meaningful with a male. They are more consciously working toward a model of “new femininity” constructed for them by modern feminism, and somewhere along the line they’ve been getting the message that they cannot get there with a man or by adhering in any way to more traditional models of femininity. The movement that claimed to be all about offering greater choice for women has, in the end, left them with only one real option—adhere to the new “independent,” career-oriented feminist model of womanhood.
And yet people wonder why so many have gotten the impression that feminism is anti-male. I mean, how could a movement that seems to have played such a large role in encouraging young women to view the maintenance of meaningful relationships with men as hindrances to their future and “betrayals” of their femininity be considered in any way anti-male?
But I digress. Continuing with the article…
Laura Hamilton and Elizabeth Armstrong, sociologists at University of California, Merced and the University of Michigan studied relationship patterns among upper-middle-class female college students, and they discovered that these women believed relational commitments were supposed to take a backseat to self-development. And that young women often found relationships to be “greedy,” demanding excessive amounts of time and energy that detracted from the main tasks of college—educational achievements and meeting people. Hamilton and Armstrong found that young women often sought protection from relationships that could “derail their ambition.”
And herein rests a key driver of the modern hookup culture. Many girls have become just as allergic to commitment as young men are often stereotyped to be. Women are now playing just as large a part as men in the perpetuation of hookup culture.
Many men are still asking young women out, going on dinner dates, calling, and adhering to the other “gentlemanly” rules established for them in a much older age and still outwardly pined for by certain female critics. What they’re finding is that young women are becoming less and less responsive to this behavior—the more serious the men get, the more distant the girls begin to make themselves, ostensibly fearing for their “independence”.
Given such a reality, what is the appropriate male response?
Quit going on dinner dates. Quit asking girls out in a formal manner. Don’t call. Cease all manner of “gentlemanly” behavior you may have learned as a child via your parents or the Disney Channel. Replace dinners and other traditional dates with bar/pong dates, and allow late night “booty-call” texts to supplant phone calls and traditional methods of asking a girl out. In short, do less.
And lo and behold, what do men find as they move to these more informal methods of courtship? Far more enthusiastic responses from their female peers and more sexual success. The girls may complain to their peers about a given man’s lack of commitment, but his low investment offers no threat to her perceived identity as a “liberated woman”, and is therefore more acceptable than anything else.
The adaptations we are seeing from men in the dating world are a natural response to female choice. The reality is that women have begun to vote with their feet. Their actions are sending the clear message that they do not want to be stuck in the trappings of traditional relationships, and they are running away from the men who threaten to offer them. They have fought quite vigorously to remove themselves from the confines of traditional dating, and continue to battle in order to maintain that distance.
We do not live in an age where the male retains unquestioned dominance/control over the sexual and social behaviors of his female peers, and it is for this reason that men have no choice but to respect these efforts and the decisions they seem to symbolize.
Girls not responding to traditional approaches about commitment and relationships? Well, you can’t make them want what they don’t want, so just don’t provide it to them. Problem solved!
Slowly, the reality of growing female aversion to commitment is dawning on society and more people are beginning to talk about it. Any discourse, however, will prove unproductive if people fail to acknowledge the fem-centric nature of the trend. Women are the gatekeepers of sex—men (at least in Western nations like the USA) do not get to directly control all aspects of female sexuality as they once did, and it is women who decide which men receive sexual companionship, when they get it, and on what conditions it is given.
Right now, those conditions are increasingly requiring young men to minimize investment. Female action has determined this, and only female action can reverse it. If young women want more male investment in relationships, then they’ll need to accept it more often when it is offered. Until such a time, men will just continue to do what works.