Hooking up: How’s that working out?

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2015/08/31/hooking-up-hows-that-working-out/

Big news item: Customers of Ashley Madison, a Toronto-based dating (euphemism) site, were caught with their pants down. How embarrassing! The site was hacked, and the names, email addresses, physical descriptions, and detailed sexual preferences of 30 million customers were made public. Some people may have been the targets of blackmail, and two customers have, reportedly, ended their lives.

In case you are the only person in the Internet world who hasn’t heard of Ashley Madison, it is a site for folks looking to have anonymous affairs. Ashley Madison’s motto: “Life is short.  Have an affair.” Authorities in Toronto are conducting an investigation of criminal activity, but there is little doubt that millions of lives have been ruined.

Similar hookup sites abound. Tinder, a popular one, allows the young and willing to find sex partners with the swipe of a finger. Some of Tinder’s male customers say they are able to arrange two or three hook-ups and can then go with the better choice. “Guys view everything as a competition, who slept with the best, hottest girls,” one dater revealed to Vanity Fair magazine. In the magazine’s most recent issue, reporter Nancy Jo Sales tells the stories of current users of Tinder, and other dating sites, such as Hinge. Interviews include six female Boston College students (first names only and changed) spending the summer in New York City working as summer interns. They are uneasy with the dating scene, but drawn in to it.

“Who doesn’t want to have sex? But it feels bad when they’re like ‘See ya,’” said one. “It’s a contest to see who cares less, and the guys win a lot at caring less.”

As one male investment banker type cited in the article said, “It’s like ordering seamless, but you are ordering a person.”

What do these Internet dating users tell us about themselves? Clearly, these are utilitarian arrangements; they use each other for recreational sex. Some Tinder customers keep records on who is good at this or that. They share their records. Clearly, the girls are seen as commodities to be consumed and discarded. Echoes here of the recent St. Paul’s revelations of boys’ hook-up competitions.

Some women are happy with the lack of attachment to a sex partner, but many are upset and depressed after an anonymous night. The B.C. interns with misgivings, and a bit staggered by the sex scene, say that if they express their discontent aloud “it’s like you’re weak, you’re not independent, you’ve missed the whole memo about third-wave feminism.”

Is it any wonder that, despite substantial advances in education and in the work place, the happiness of American women has declined over the past 35 years? According to a report from Medico Health Solutions, in 2010, more than one in four American women took medication for anxiety, depression, and related problems. The 2012  Public Health Reviews reported that, in the 10 years prior, researchers found that the use of drugs for psychiatric and behavioral disorders had risen to 29 percent of all adults. Could it be that there is a correlation between these new social sex habits and anxiety disorders?

The Marriage Plot, a recent novel about a triangle of Brown University students, offers a graphic picture of the no-consequences rules of the sex game. Most poignant is the portrayal of a bright, beautiful girl who chronically weeps and feels used after her various sexual explorations. But she is the modern college student — anxious about being left out of the sophisticated social milieu, fearing that males will not pay attention to her.

There can be no doubt that the advent of the birth control pill changed the world. Its common usage has accelerated out-of-wedlock sex and is having consequences that we may only just now be uncovering.

But wait.

What of the pill’s promise to lessen “shotgun” weddings and build more stable families? Wasn’t it supposed to liberate women? Current data show that today 41 percent of all babies are born to unwed mothers, compared to just 11 percent in 1970. Non-marital births to teens rose from 30 percent in 1970 to 87 percent in 2009.

Has the pill anesthetized us to a culture of immediate gratification?

How should we look at the social fall-out of our sexual revolution? Do the “customers” of Tinder and Ashley Madison find hooking up for the evening satisfying? Do women appear on dating sites out of fear of being left out or because, like the male users of these sites, they crave sex without intimacy? And putting sexual longings aside, are they finding what they seek?

Kevin and Marilyn Ryan are writers, former teachers, and the editors of Why I’m Still A Catholic. They write primarily on cultural, educational and religious topics.  This is the first in a series of articles by the Ryans on the hookup culture.

Also by Kevin and Marilyn Ryan:

Unsolicited advice to the young