Hookup Culture Is Good for Women, and Other Feminist Myths
Pornography. Casual sex. Crude jokes about sex. Hooking up with no strings attached.
Hanna Rosin's most recent Atlantic article, "Boys on the Side," describes highly intelligent, career-oriented women engaging in all of these behaviors with a mere shrug of the shoulders. In the minds of many driven young women on college campuses across the country, sexual promiscuity doesn't harm anyone. Hooking up has become the new sexual norm for young adults, and according to this norm, students shy away from committed relationships and instead enjoy one-time sexual encounters with no expectation of further intimacy. And, Rosin argues, the sexual liberation of the 1960s that led to the more recent "hookup culture" on college campuses is good for women—it allows women to enjoy casual sex without being "tied down" by serious commitment.
Rosin initially substantiates this claim through interviews with her subjects. Most women who are engaging in the hookup culture report that they don't want to return to the days of chastity belts or even more traditional dating, and Rosin takes these positive reports as evidence that the hookup culture is not only here to stay but is also good for the women involved. She provides no evidence, however, that women who hookup a lot during their early 20s go on to lead fulfilling lives, and she doesn't offer a counterpoint of women who have opted out of hooking up. Furthermore, Rosin offers a few statistics to demonstrate positive trends nationwide when it comes to sexual mores. The rate of teenage girls having sex has declined from 37 to 27 percent in the past 25 years, for instance. And the rate of rape and sexual assault against females has declined by 70 percent nationally since 1993. Both of these numbers demonstrate significant progress for women. Whether or not the positive statistics correlate to the rise of the hookup culture, however, remains unclear.
Rosin's stance on hookup culture hinges on two assumptions. First, she assumes that economic productivity and personal independence are the twin goals of every modern person. Feminists shouldn't decry the advent of the hookup culture, she argues, because it "is too bound up with everything that's fabulous about being a young woman in 2012—the freedom, the confidence, the knowledge that you can always depend on yourself." Moreover, "[the hookup culture] is not a place where they drown … unlike women in earlier ages, they have more-important things on their minds, such as good grades and internships and job interviews and a financial future of their own." Intimacy, family, and community might be desirable, but only after a woman has established herself as an independent financial entity.