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Take that, Caitlin Flanagan
September 9, 2012 4:04 PM   Subscribe

Focusing on career -- how hookup culture empowers women
posted by msalt (51 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
Researchers guess that about a quarter of college kids skip out on the hookup culture altogether, while a similar number participate with gusto—about 10 hookups or more (the lax­titutes?).

I am at a loss to explain what makes somebody type something like that.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 4:11 PM on September 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, I didn't think 'hookups' was necessarily in opposition to 'dating', or that one had replaced the other in the past 15 years. You'd have to be from a crushingly conservative background to think so.
posted by dunkadunc at 4:19 PM on September 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Focusing on ad revenue - how linkbait about college sex empowers The Atlantic
posted by crayz at 4:19 PM on September 9, 2012 [48 favorites]


Researchers guess that about a quarter of college kids skip out on the hookup culture
altogether, while a similar number participate with gusto—about 10 hookups or more (the lax­titutes?).

I am at a loss to explain what makes somebody type something like that.


Earlier in the piece, the author defines the time - “lax­titutes” (a term of art denoting women who sleep with several guys on the lacrosse team).

FPP link should be corrected to point to the first page, or the single page version of the article.
posted by retinal at 4:20 PM on September 9, 2012


"time"... gah, I meant "term".
posted by retinal at 4:21 PM on September 9, 2012


Ah, thanks, I thought it was a term of the author's own making, which was disturbing.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 4:22 PM on September 9, 2012


"How male sexual entitlement and heterosexual rape culture empowers women."
posted by Catchfire at 4:25 PM on September 9, 2012 [16 favorites]


[Fixed link, carry on. ]
posted by restless_nomad at 4:26 PM on September 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


One thing I thought was super interesting was the dismay of the Argentinean girl confronted with the American hookup scene;

“Here in America, the girls, they give up their mouth, their ass, their tits,” the Argentinean said to me, punctuating each with the appropriate hand motion, “before they even know the guy. It’s like, ‘Hello.’ ‘Hello.’ ‘You wanna hook up?’ ‘Sure.’ They are so aggressive! Do they have hearts of steel or something? In my country, a girl like this would be desperate. Or a prostitute.”

Fascinating comment because it discloses so baldly the commodification at the heart of “traditional” sexual mores. The implications of her statement are that women lose something (sexual intimacy) because they are trying to get something (emotional intimacy) from men, and a girl who supplies the former without receiving the latter has struck a bad deal, is getting ripped off, essentially. I love the irony of an Argentinean woman, rampantly stereotyped in pop culture as the land of fierce passion, the tango, etc, being dismayed that these Wall St. veterans, the women of Yale’s MBA program, are insufficiently capitalist in their approach to human relations.
posted by Aubergine at 4:27 PM on September 9, 2012 [19 favorites]


I'm having a hard time seeing past my simmering loathing for MBAs of both genders long enough to read the article for a feminist/non-feminist interpretation.

Fuck who you want, don't fuck my economy.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 4:28 PM on September 9, 2012 [14 favorites]


Single young women in their sexual prime—that is, their 20s and early 30s, the same age as the women at the business-­school party—are for the first time in history more success­ful, on average, than the single young men around them. They are more likely to have a college degree and, in aggregate, they make more money. What makes this remarkable development possible is not just the pill or legal abortion but the whole new landscape of sexual freedom—the ability to delay marriage and have temporary relationships that don’t derail education or career. To put it crudely, feminist progress right now largely depends on the existence of the hookup culture. And to a surprising degree, it is women—not men—who are perpetuating the culture, especially in school, cannily manipulating it to make space for their success, always keeping their own ends in mind.

Personally, I don't think it's an either/or. Both young men and young women (or rather, some young men and some young women) are benefiting from "hookup culture," while of course others aren't participating at all, despite the titillating articles about it. There are benefits to both, and I don't see why that should be so surprising.
posted by Forktine at 4:37 PM on September 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't understand why these articles always claim the hook up culture is only 15 years old. This sounds exactly like life when I was in college, from 1985 - 1989. And I went to a notably conservative Big 10 school, where the hook up culture should have been real late to arrive. I really think this is just people inventing trends to write about.
posted by COD at 4:38 PM on September 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


Up with hooking up. Dating rituals meant to safeguard female purity are based in conditions of oppression. The weird myths of heterosexuality-- that straight women don't crave sex, that they don't enjoy men's bodies-- have too much influence on the current practice of sex and dating. Women should enjoy men, men should enjoy women.

On the other hand, maybe one day men will stop casually whipping out their porn-heightened female degradation fantasies without a stray moment of communication or reflection. But I think as heterosexual sex becomes less predominantly understood as "men getting what they want from women, and women enjoying it" this will change. Or maybe women should just start bringing up their boy scout spanking subjugation fantasies during one-night stands. (To complete the symmetry, women would have to start calling men "uptight skanks" if they didn't comply, but maybe we could put an end to that.)

(This article makes light of the ways that men feel casually entitled to women for sex-- I don't think jokes are enough to turn the tables or dam the flow of rape culture-- but I also don't think that the solution is to become the gatekeepers of purity again. I think women need to feel on a larger scale that they're entitled to a pleasurable sexual experience, and that they can end the experience if it is not pleasurable, and that if it does not end when they say it does that it's a crime that will be taken seriously. Also that some random frat party tail's opinion about how their sexuality reflects on their person is insignificant compared to their own self-determination.)
posted by stoneandstar at 4:39 PM on September 9, 2012 [13 favorites]


1- Invent "new craze" to write about that is actually old, old news, preferably involving sex or drugs

2- Post on website with ads, have people link to you

3- Profit!
posted by dunkadunc at 4:40 PM on September 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


this article misses the point on so many things. for starters, it completely fails to explain why American hook-up culture is different to that of other Western countries along the lines it proposes and how American women are better of in that sense to those of other Western countries.
posted by Greener_pastures at 4:55 PM on September 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


There isn't nearly enough sexual freedom for anyone in any present day society, fair enough. Is there any truer cultural sentiment even?

I'm dubious however that "hookup culture" really differs much from past dating scenes or represents substantive progress.

You need hippy idealism before casual sex takes on any deeper cultural significance. And frankly collage kids don't understand enough to make knowledgeable hippies anymore.

There are however all manor of really interesting de-facto-hippies actually progressing their own little corner of human sexuality, like polyamory or whatever.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:15 PM on September 9, 2012


Yes, yes. Slut culture is /empowering/. Really.

We've never heard this story before. Not ever.
posted by clvrmnky at 5:39 PM on September 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Hookup culture. Read: Greek culture.
posted by victory_laser at 5:48 PM on September 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


You need hippy idealism before casual sex takes on any deeper cultural significance. And frankly collage kids don't understand enough to make knowledgeable hippies anymore.

Wow. Wasn't aware hippie elitism was a thing. Thanks for broadening my horizons. Good thing all these stupid little brats have the aging 60s crowd to explain to them how things are supposed to work, then.
posted by AdamCSnider at 6:17 PM on September 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


Hm. Reading the actual verifiable facts mentioned in the article, college sex sounds about the same as when I was there 40 years ago, though I think there was a WHOLE lot less anal (which as far as I'm concerned is too darn tough on tissues not designed for it). Now, as she told me long past the time when she might be trying to teach me something, my mother couldn't have sex without getting married (thus her two unfortunate marriages), but then she didn't have reliable birth control.
posted by Peach at 6:20 PM on September 9, 2012


This sounds exactly like life when I was in college, from 1985 - 1989.

It's a bit more hook-uppy than my college experience in the same years, but yeah, I knew the girl who "dated" thirteen of my friends in a semester too. But I went to Rice (engineering school, no Greek system) and I think it was more acceptable for us to just opt out if we wanted to focus on studies/career than it would have been a lot of other places.
posted by immlass at 6:22 PM on September 9, 2012


Collage kids are too busy making art to understand anything.
posted by c'mon sea legs at 6:28 PM on September 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


This piece is simply false in implications. Showing a "snow job" pic to a woman colleague or counterpart at another could get you fired from any trading desk on the Street, and Street and consulting women in their late 20s are far more often distinguished by their engagement rings than by their untramelled promiscuity.
posted by MattD at 6:39 PM on September 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


I have had the hardest time explaining to people why this article has been bothering me, and I think stoneandstar somewhat nails it. I am all in favor of hooking up in the sense that I think people of all genders should be able to have and enjoy casual sex if they want to without being shamed, but I don't but I also don't understand where the beginning part about the gross MBAs and the girl making Asian prostitute jokes about herself and the Yale "no means yes"ers fits into her larger point. To me, these things suggest we are not fully liberated, because the sexual roles they put men and women in are unequal and focus is still weighted toward male enjoyment rather than mutual pleasure. Caitlin Flanagan or similar would instead probably argue that such things are the unavoidable wages/dark side of sexual freedom. I don't even know what Rosin is trying to say about it.
posted by naoko at 6:50 PM on September 9, 2012 [7 favorites]


When I was young, we called it "getting laid." Not much has changed except the vernacular.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:50 PM on September 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Also, the arguments
a) hookup culture is making today's young women more empowered and
b) actually, hookup culture is sort of a myth because lots of people aren't participating and statistics show that teen sex is on the decline
seem to be somewhat at odds to me.
posted by naoko at 7:09 PM on September 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


And frankly collage kids don't understand enough to make knowledgeable hippies anymore.

Man, my generation can't even have casual sex right?
posted by ChuraChura at 7:16 PM on September 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Man, my generation can't even have casual sex right?

Hey, man, some of us didn't even get invited to the hookup culture party.
posted by zvs at 7:21 PM on September 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


This article is making a moral value judgment on the ability to display apathy when shown pornography at a quasi-professional function, observing frat boys sing at young women "yes means anal," and learning that in order to get attention from men you need to impersonate misogynist and racist fantasies of conquest. It roots this moral judgment in the fact that some women are able to embody capitalist predation to the extent that they are making more money than slightly fewer women fifteen years ago -- of course, still nowhere near what men make doing the same work (did she mention that fact? I forget...)

It should scarcely need pointing out that he ability of women to withstand egregious harassment and humiliation in order to survive in a world built for men is about as new as young people having sex. And the false flag about liberated sexualities signalling progress would be great were it not for the slightly embarrassing fact that sexualities have been marching toward liberation since at least the (imaginary) 1880s and it's really high time they finished the job.

Finally, the idea that some women, through a heuristic of degradation, shame, displacement and oppression, have managed to join the financial elite who not only enact a system of inequality and immiseration on the vulnerable and marginalized daily, but brought the entire world economic system to a crash through their insatiable greed and wilful neglect of others, represents a sign of "success" strikes me as a wholly depressing and discouraging synopsis of what's wrong with America.
posted by Catchfire at 7:54 PM on September 9, 2012 [22 favorites]


Catchfire, not really sure what you're saying, but I love the way you say it.
posted by deo rei at 8:02 PM on September 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Catchfire writes "It roots this moral judgment in the fact that some women are able to embody capitalist predation to the extent that they are making more money than slightly fewer women fifteen years ago -- of course, still nowhere near what men make doing the same work (did she mention that fact? I forget...) "

Actually she quoted the statistic that women in that cohort are more likely to graduate college then men and are, in aggregate, making more money.
posted by Mitheral at 8:03 PM on September 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


There's no citation so I can't check the actual study, but I'd bet that aggregate statistic, at least in part, is the result of the systemic racism which keeps so many men (largely black and Hispanic) out of the workforce or in menial jobs.

The figure so often cited has women in the same jobs making less.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:22 PM on September 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm guessing you are right, it's pretty specific. It'll be interesting to see what happens to wages as the reduction in systematic sexism lessens the wage and opportunity gap in formerly male dominated jobs. One would expect the trend for more women to graduate college would mean over time that they would out number men in the professional and management careers that pay the most. This will make it more obvious that it's poor people who are most disadvantaged by the system and hopefully we'll be able to spent more resources to address that instead of having to fight "ism" wars.
posted by Mitheral at 8:52 PM on September 9, 2012


these things suggest we are not fully liberated, because the sexual roles they put men and women in are unequal and focus is still weighted toward male enjoyment rather than mutual pleasure. Caitlin Flanagan or similar would instead probably argue that such things are the unavoidable wages/dark side of sexual freedom. I don't even know what Rosin is trying to say about it.

This article is explicitly responding to (and refuting) Caitlin Flanagan's concern trolling about hookup culture. She calls her out by name.
posted by msalt at 9:33 PM on September 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't understand why these articles always claim the hook up culture is only 15 years old. This sounds exactly like life when I was in college, from 1985 - 1989.

Try 1972-76. The only thing I see in this article is that the women they talk about are willing to put up with a lot more sexist piggery than we did in the "sexual revolution" years. The whole article makes me sad for my daughters.
posted by Isadorady at 10:13 PM on September 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Naoko: Caitlin Flanagan or similar would instead probably argue that such things are the unavoidable wages/dark side of sexual freedom. I don't even know what Rosin is trying to say about it.

This is an excerpt from a book in which Rosin argues that women now dominate both the economic and social spheres in the West (and will soon do so in the rest of the world) because of changes in how we perceive work and family. So that's her argument.

Worth noting that she doesn't just promote the idea that women are taking over - she also accepts the "Demise of Guys" argument, that porn and gaming have destroyed men and enabled women to "take over". This has been discussed on the blue before.
posted by Wylla at 12:43 AM on September 10, 2012


I've garnered the impression that 'hook-up culture' is not so much about what people do as how frankly and readily they talk about it and about understandings which might once have been tacit.

More generally, as always: great if you can, not great if you have to.
posted by Segundus at 1:58 AM on September 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Segundus; exactly. Rosin's point is precisely that women can and don't have to and for the most part don't, so don't freak out about it.
posted by msalt at 6:58 AM on September 10, 2012


This article is explicitly responding to (and refuting) Caitlin Flanagan's concern trolling about hookup culture. She calls her out by name.
This is an excerpt from a book in which Rosin argues that women now dominate both the economic and social spheres in the West (and will soon do so in the rest of the world) because of changes in how we perceive work and family. So that's her argument.

Yeah, that part, I get. But where does (as Isadorady put it) the sexist piggery fit in? She opens with it but then doesn't seem to tie it in to her point. Does it not matter because at least women are dominating in other ways? I'm just not following her train of thought.
posted by naoko at 7:51 AM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


As far as I can tell (the book isn't out yet, so this is based on interviews I've seen with her, her writing prior to the book, excerpts of the book, and articles about the book), Rosin sees the sexism as:

a) A symptom of women's progress - as sort of 'last gasp' by men who fall back on degrading women because they no longer have any desire to do the work of competing with them in the intellectual or professional spheres.

and/or

b) Something some (alpha-)women actively invite and enjoy, so not sexist at all. That seems to be her idea with the MBAs. She makes the point that while some female students are protesting and even suing over perceived sexism at elite universities, others (the ones she implies are the future successes) are actively revelling in the environment of no-strings-attached sex and highly sexualised banter at the school. She doesn't see the banter as sexist - it's rather the men bowing to the women's wishes by giving them as much dirty talk and easy sex as they want. The women, meanwhile, get all the sex they desire with no need to commit to underachieving guys in ways that might hold back their careers.

Just to be clear, I think Rosin is vastly oversimplifying women's position in the world - she's generally the anti-Flanigan: just as silly, but on the other side of every issue. I'm trying to clarify, rather than endorse, her argument.
posted by Wylla at 9:32 AM on September 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Salon has an article today which very efficiently tears the whole Atlantic anti-feminist linkbait-machine to bits. This is long, but much more worth a read than anything Flanigan or Rosin (or anyone else at the Atlantic) has produced on these issues, IMHO.
posted by Wylla at 9:49 AM on September 10, 2012 [6 favorites]


Oops! Credit failure! That excellent article was republished in Salon, but is by Pamela Erens, and was originally from the LARB.
posted by Wylla at 10:17 AM on September 10, 2012


Thanks, Wylla. I do think there is a weird way in which this sort of thing almost loops back and becomes Flanagan-esque, in that accepting degrading treatment like fratboy rape chants is seen as part an parcel of a sex-positive culture. The difference is that Flanagan would say, "And that's why hookups are bad, ladies - respect yourself by protecting your purity!" whereas Rosin would say, "Hookups are fine and fratboy rape chants aren't a big deal" - and it is a big difference, BUT both perspectives seem to accept the two pieces as necessarily in tandem. What I don't seem to hear a lot of people saying (outside of the more explicitly feminist blogs) is "Hookups don't ruin you AND rape culture is bad. An emphasis on consent and mutual respect, not on purity, is what makes for a healthy sexual culture."
posted by naoko at 11:08 AM on September 10, 2012 [6 favorites]


where does (as Isadorady put it) the sexist piggery fit in? She opens with it but then doesn't seem to tie it in to her point.

I agree that she's unclear about it. My sense was that she was trying to show that these women (or maybe modern women in general) are just shrugging off the piggery. It wasn't that they were joining in or anything, but just rolling their eyes and going "Seen it, whatever." Part of her efforts to refute the women-as-victims narrative that Caitlin is pushing. The frat boys chanting though, I'm not sure where that fits in at all. I don't agree with naoko's reading that accepting it is sex positive, more just that they're beyond that and stupid boys are stuck in an increasingly outdated 20th century mindset.

The Erens article is very interesting but I don't think it's actually as anti-Atlantic as Wylla makes it out to be. She goes into considerable detail and has a lot of positive things to say, not least about how all these articles are written by women (not just Flanagan, but Sandra Tsing Loh and others).
posted by msalt at 1:38 AM on September 11, 2012


I don't agree with naoko's reading that accepting it is sex positive

To be clear, it's not that I personally would describe it that way, just that I'm having trouble reading Rosin's telling of it in a way that says something other then, "Women like both hooking up and creepy MBAs/fratboys because it turns out casual sex doesn't harm women." I like your read, that women are shrugging their shoulders, taking what they can get from the man-children, and going on with their accomplished, badass lives. And as a description of how things currently are, that's fine I suppose But what I want to know is, Is Rosin ok with this? Is this all we as women (or frankly, as men) should expect? I want more than this, and I don't think demanding that we get respect as well is to paint ourselves as victims.

I also like the Erens piece, and I think the title (while funny) somewhat obscures how complex and thoughtful it is.
posted by naoko at 7:35 AM on September 11, 2012


Michelle Goldberg's review of Rosin's book in Democracy is online and worth reading.

The upshot is that, while Goldberg finds Rosin's ideas hopeful, she feels that Rosin has ignored or misinterpreted actual data much of the time, and has failed to make the case that the 'matriarchy' she imagines will actually change power relations in society, since it appears (at least for now) to be the province of the poor, with women in dead-end service jobs suddenly becoming the main breadwinners as men become unemployed.

"Perhaps this is the wave of the future, but until women move into leadership roles in much larger numbers, systematic change seems unlikely, and without systematic change, it’s hard to see the female leadership gap narrowing all by itself. [...] As the United States fractures, leaving the people in charge isolated and insulated from the majority of the country, there’s no reason to assume we won’t see [...] men at the very bottom and the very top, and women dominating the middle class at the exact moment it’s become more tenuous and insecure than ever."
posted by Wylla at 7:56 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Goldberg also has a new piece in The Daily Beast about Naomi Wolf’s Vagina Issues.
posted by homunculus at 10:27 AM on September 11, 2012


Nobody Told Asia About The End of Men: Mara Hvistendahl takes on Hanna Rosin.
posted by homunculus at 1:16 PM on September 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Naoko: I like your read, that women are shrugging their shoulders, taking what they can get from the man-children, and going on with their accomplished, badass lives. And as a description of how things currently are, that's fine I suppose But what I want to know is, Is Rosin ok with this?

I dunno, haven't read more than the article here. What the hell, let's rewrite her book for her! That reality fits my definitely atypical life experience -- my mom got her law degree in 1955, and I know a lot of smart, strong and very successful women -- but I also know that the old patriarchal reality is still much more common than I naively thought growing up.

Is this all we as women (or frankly, as men) should expect? I want more than this, and I don't think demanding that we get respect as well is to paint ourselves as victims.

Me, neither, and I'm a guy. I can only see those MBA guys as socially retarded and abandoning a lot of life's richness for no good reason. But I've given up on deciding what other people should do. If people want to be material girls or man-sluts or "pimps" (as opposed to real pimps) or students seeking MRS degrees, well people make a lot of stupid shallow choices in life. I can't stand reality TV shows either, but as long as people have some kind of choice in the matter, they can knock themselves out I guess. Those idiot MBAs are that much less competition for the women I'm interested in.
posted by msalt at 8:48 PM on September 21, 2012


I knew this was coming when I saw this article circulate on Twitter, but my friend has a typically truculent yet insightful response. Contrasting this article, and a couple of others, with the Paralympics works surprisingly well.
posted by restless_nomad at 8:46 AM on September 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thanks for that link, RN. Fascinating piece, funny and beautifully written ("articles and books about magical body parts that ...when combined with other body parts and shaken vigorously, confer mystical benefits or reveal ancient wisdoms.") I also love seeing McSweeney's Internet Tendency dare to get a bit serious.

I do think she misses one key point of Rosin's argument when (in an atypically trite, PC framing) she argues that "Rosin’s notion of pelvicly-driven feminist progress focuses exclusively on students who have the luxury of free time for an active sex life ... [who] come from wealthier families, where parental largess allows children to extend their high school dating patterns for another four years ..."

The whole point of Rosin's argument, from what I see, is that hookup culture takes less time; these are busy co-eds who would rather focus on their studies and career than put energy into a serious relationship. Perhaps Schorn couldn't resist the cleverness of the line she built up to: "They were, so to speak, born on third base; of course it’s easier for them to go all the way." That aside, an article well worth reading.
posted by msalt at 11:26 AM on September 24, 2012


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