The End of Sex: How Hookup Culture is Leaving a Generation Unhappy, Sexually Unfulfilled, and Confused About Intimacy

In the interest of full disclosure I feel that I need to put something on the table right away: As soon as I heard the title “The End of Sex: How Hookup Culture is Leaving a Generation Unhappy, Sexually Unfulfilled, and Confused About Intimacy” my eyes took a hard left and rolled all the way around the world à la Superman in “Superman: The Movie.” When they finally assumed their normal position I decided to take the opportunity to both read and eviscerate Donna Freitas’ exposé of the sex lives of today’s college students.

Unfortunately for my single-minded sex-positivity, Freitas surveyed actual college students from both religiously and non-religiously affiliated institutions across the nation. It’s hard to argue that casual sex isn’t harmful to some people in some situations when real-life college students are saying that they are left feeling “unfulfilled” and “used” after short-term sexual encounters. Even worse some young women (and a few men) reported feeling “abused” and said that they were unwilling participants. This is a problem.

Freitas argued that this problem is rooted in the lack of romantic options and dating opportunities for young people in college. She suggests re-emphasizing abstinence as a viable option for students to refocus their minds and learn more about themselves. In the appendix, “On the Practical: Concrete Ways to Respond to Hookup Culture”, Freitas deliciously appeals to parents, faculty, and administration to have conversations about love, love letters, and to give campus tours that focus on romantic spots for dates. (Everyone knows that no one loves to be told what to do with their sex lives like college students do.)

Of course, the problem tackled in Freitas’ survey starts far earlier. And naturally I think the solution does not involve less sex, but more (would you expect any less?). Kids in the current cultural climate are barraged with messages so mixed a blender would be in awe. Mass media, that behemoth specter, gleefully places women and men in beige sexual boxes that preach the gospel of blandness. Men are brutes, women are either vixens or prudes. (Never the twain shall meet!) On this, Freitas and I can agree. She outlines this problem in “Learning to Play the Part (of Porn Star): The Sexualization of College Girls” and “Why We Get Boys Wrong: The Emotional Glass Ceiling” and some salient points can be found therein.

So why do I say more sex and not less? Because while we watch our generation and the generations after grapple with hypersexuality in popular culture our schools and parents (not on the whole; love you Mom and Dad!) refuse to address sexuality in any real way. This is the crux of the problem of a hookup culture that leaves people feeling unfulfilled. College students go crazy and binge on sex and alcohol and junk food because they’ve been taught their whole lives that these things are bad. Countless studies show that in moderation the latter two won’t kill you but casual sex hurts everyone all the time because God, your doctor, your friends, society will judge you for having sex, and harshly.

Demonizing sex and making it a sinful, moral failing on the sex-haver not only makes people want to do it more (humans, so defiant) but it also makes people embarrassed to talk about it. Freitas talks frequently about a lack of communication between sex partners and how this makes casual sex unfulfilling. She’s absolutely correct. The solution, though, isn’t promoting an anti-casual sex agenda. It’s promoting a healthy attitude towards sex and relationships. Respect, dignity, and self-esteem can coexist with “hookups” and sex positivity and sexuality can do the same with abstinence. On the broad spectrum of sexuality no one expression is going to be right for every person (with the possible exception of masturbation because I would shout from the rooftops that everyone should at least try it if I wasn’t afraid of heights). The answer is not promoting the ideal of dating and long-term relationships in favor of casual sex. Or vice-versa.

Obviously the impetus for writing this book springs from the concern of Freitas for the well-being of college students and for this I cannot fault her. Her book is an important read for anyone who both enjoys casual sex and having visceral, vocal reactions to books. I would also encourage partners currently engaged in a casual sex relationship to take turns reading this out loud in bed after a particularly raucous bout of lovemakin’. You know, for irony’s sake.


Emily Frances is a writer from the heart of the Rockies. She enjoys scotch, beards, and dancing that doesn't involve crotch-to-butt contact. Follow her on Twitter @pocketcopter

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