Sunday, February 1, 2009

Hooking Up

The blogosphere has been at the bottom of my priority list (is that where it belongs?) this week. Friday, in particular, was a delightful day during which the Internet was down. I discovered how happy and cheerful the world seems when the virtual world takes a nap. Sunny!

So I'm back with a vengeance, but also some perspective.

Last night, the Scientist Dad and I watched a rough version of a documentary-in-the-works: The Hook-Up Culture. Specifically, the film targets the link between alcohol, drugs, and casual sex (my mind was blown open to vast, new horizons of what constitutes "sex"). The whole, banal story wouldn't shock anyone vaguely familiar with Cosmopolitan, though part of the point of the film is just how shocked parents can be when they discover this culture.

Here it is in a nutshell:

1. Students abuse alcohol regularly on and off campus.
2. Students have immediate access to the drug of their choice: Marijuana is tops, ecstasy is big, and cocaine isn't the far down the list.
3. When under the influence, students have casual sex or make-out sessions. Lots of it.
4. Fraternities are the temples of the hook-up culture.
5. Very little shame is attached to hooking up (unless, students say, you do it "too many times").
6. Girls say other girls get emotionally attached to their hook-ups. Boys (and these are boys) say "whatever" but insist that sometimes they regret it.
7. STD's, pregnancy, and depression are all equally regarded as "bad." But no one seems to think it could happen to them.

I think it was WH Auden who said that imaginary evils is romantic and thrilling; real evil is dull, monotonous, and predictable. Yup. Exactly.

But what was really predictable was the film's commentary. Whose to blame? Repressive Christian morality (huh?). How do we fight this? Educate girls and boys to have really satisfying sexual experiences (i.e., use condoms).

Apparently, repressive Christian parents and schools--the kind who make rules against this kind of behavior--alienate their children and students to the extent that said children won't "come talk to them" when in need. Girls need to be able to "talk to their parents without fear of being judged."

I'm all about kids talking to their parents. Amen. The implication, however, was that if the parents set rules, then the kids will be alienated.

Respondeo: It is not the rules that alienate kids. It's the way those rules are communicated from early childhood that makes all the difference. The rules are there to protect those kids and help them to flourish. Binge drinking four nights a week is not flourishing. Having a glass of wine with dinner and then settling down to study is--for a college student. Parents have a responsibility not to be the non-judgmental ear, but rather to advise and guide. Loving guidance and an unwavering ability to forgive is what these kids need to see from mom and dad. Law enforcement is what they need from the universities.

We have to make the case to our kids that Christian morality frees us--it does not repress us.

I wish that filmmaker had done a contrast study. Go ask young students who enjoy happy relationships, laugh at true humor, can discuss a serious thought, strive to examine themselves and become better, and love their studies: they are all these things because they have chosen a moral code. That code frees them for real relationships, frees them from the "need to feel wanted."

Finally, we've tried the education thing. Sex-ed doesn't work. Abstinence ed apparently doesn't work, either. Only real relationships--with mom, dad, peers, teachers--that encourage us to lives of heroic virtue work. Only person-to-person can we combat the hook-up culture.


Aaron said...

The documentary seems to describe a kind of lifestyle–and common experience–that I was spared from throughout undergrad and beyond. I heard, however, from high school classmates at large universities that were getting involved in these things and I quickly saw how destructive it became, both for them and their families. One even committed suicide.

There are two "must read" books on this topic. The first is Smart Sex: Finding Life-long Love in a Hook-up World by Jennifer Roback Morse. The second is Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters by Meg Meeker. As the father of a daughter, the second is particularly powerful. It helps explain why girls especially need (and desire) boundaries, in particular boundaries put in place by a strong father. The lack of participation in the hook-up world among girls with strong father-daughter relationships is documented throughout the book and gives me some hope for the future.

Paul in the GNW said...

Thank you, I look forward to the movie (NOT..?). You've hit it on the head with family and parenting being the key. We've had our older girls involved in "Little Flower's" and now Challenge from pretty young ages, and plan to utilize similar programs designed for our younger boys.