Women Aren’t Victims Of The Hookup Culture, Ctd

Andrew Sullivan —  Sep 21 2012 @ 3:55pm

Readers continue the popular thread:

Does this reader ever eat for the sheer pleasure of eating? Hike in a big, useless circle in the woods in order to enjoy fresh air? Yes, sex creates life but we use most of our potential frivolously most the time. To reduce the fantastic recreational potential of sex to "a culture of death," and to offensively assume that these recreational encounters are superficial or that they are enjoyed with people that you don’t really care about and probably don't want to see again, is to deny one of the things that makes us human – our capacity for play. We inject frivolity into many of the things we do, and when we do this we create meaning.

I don't begrudge the pleasure and meaning the reader is getting out of harnessing his or her libido to procreation, but I tremendously resent the idea that this is the only way to make sex meaningful. All of the sex I have is recreational, and I have plenty of it, with plenty of people. These experiences are mostly beautiful and always meaningful, and I care greatly about the people I share my body and time with. To live without this pleasure, which hurts no one, would make my life feel needlessly empty.

Another quotes another:

"Marriage is about love, commitment, service, not about pleasing each other." What!?! Pleasure isn't something that's important in a marriage? How dull!

Full disclosure: I'm a non-religious, straight white male, and single. What the "hookup culture" has taught me is that the sexual tastes I had when I was 18 have grown in the past ten years. I discovered that I love pegging (cue Dan Savage) and other sex acts that a lot of my partners didn't feel so strong about. I feel that this personal development has enhanced my life, I enjoy a variety of sexual experiences and I want to find a long term partner that I can be GGG with. Yay for an enhanced sex life! If I were to marry the first person I ever dated (I almost did), I would either be 1) completely ignorant of everything that I've discovered in the past 10 years about my sexuality, or 2) completely miserable since my partner would never strap on and go to town …


I thought I would put in my two cents.  I was a virgin when I married.  In the time before and even after I was married, I had some opportunities to hook up with women, all of which I passed up.  It was easy then; I was a newlywed.  I even turned down a spectacular opportunity just two years ago.  At the time I was afraid of not being able to live with myself if I did it, but I was also afraid that I could have lived with myself.

Now I am nearing 50.  I am still married, and I plan to stay that way.  I love my wife dearly, but the doubts and regrets that used to creep in now won't go away.  I guess I'll learn to live with it, but remaining a virgin until marriage isn't something I would recommend.


The story of my own relationship is radically different from your Mormon reader's experience.  I met my wife 25 years ago next month, and we hooked up at the end of our first date.  No drugs and only a little alcohol were involved.  We enjoyed the experience so much that we did not leave her bed for a week, except occasionally to wash up and eat.  (Oh, to be a university student again!)  Over the next several weeks we missed a lot of class.

We were both foreign students in a university town that did not offer many diversions.  We met in the middle of the semester and both assumed that we would return to our home countries at term's end, never to see one another again.  We are reasonably intelligent, strong-willed people from different cultures, and as a result we clashed frequently during our first weeks together.  Objective observers would have concluded that we were totally incompatible; we argued often.  The only thing that held us together was the awesome sex and the difficulty of carrying on a prolonged argument in the host country's language (as neither of us spoke the other's native language).

I don't think either of us would have said that we were in love.  The semester ended; we parted, but we wrote to one another.  We found a way to get together, we had more awesome sex, and then we parted again.  We reunited, had more awesome sex and kept repeating this pattern.  At some point we began to find that we enjoyed each other's company outside the bedroom, and about six to nine months in, I realized, holy cow, I'm beginning to fall for this woman.  When people ask now how we met, we explain that we had a one night stand that ran amuck.

Despite our profoundly different relationship stories, I share one important thing with your Mormon reader: we both have deeply satisfying, deeply loving, holy relationships with our wives.  We also have one significant difference:  I would never, ever suggest that my experience should be a model for anyone else's relationship. 

And this is perhaps the major point of difference between your Mormon reader and me.  Your Mormon reader and his friends managed, in a highly sexualized society in which virginity at marriage is most definitely not the norm, to stay true the dictates of their Church.  This is admirable, and I am genuinely happy that it has worked out so well for them.  Nevertheless – and your Mormon reader should please forgive me if I am misinterpreting him – he seems to suggest that society and most individuals would be better off if people followed the Mormon precepts and refrained from having sex until marriage, that the Mormon way leads to better, healthier, happier relationships. 

This I find presumptuous.  What worked for your Mormon reader and his friends may or may not work for anyone else.  Hot hookup sex ignited a truly beautiful relationship for my wife and me, but I'm not about to evangelize it.

There is one other similarity between your Mormon reader and me that might surprise him:  our Church and faith play an equally central role in my wife's and my life and relationship – and have almost from the very start.  We pray; we raise our children in the Church; we serve as lay leaders.   It's just that we – along the other members of our very inclusive, LGBT-friendly Church community - aren't really hung up on the sex thing.

You see, I'm not sure whether I believe in the Final Judgment, but if I do come before God on Judgment Day, I expect to be held accountable for my arrogance, my occasional lack of compassion, the times when I have judged others.  I expect to be asked what I have done for the least of God's children, for the poor, the lonely, the imprisoned, and I will probably have to answer, with more than a little regret, "Not enough, Lord."  I may be wrong, of course, but I'm pretty sure the matter of my premarital relations with my wife (and the small number of girlfriends who preceded her) won't even enter the conversation.  We'll have plenty of other, more important, things to discuss.

To read the entire Dish thread on the hookup culture, go here.