Wow! As I’m getting ready to preach tomorrow night on the topic of sex (the 3rd in a 4 part series) I ran across this article on Relevant just now. Tomorrow’s topic deals with what Christian ethicist, Lewis Smedes called “sinful distortion.” In this talk I will be looking at some of the sinful ways that we express our sexuality.
One of the huge issues I am going to talk about tomorrow night is “hooking-up.” The cheap and generic term for people getting together sexually, whether it’s making out, or going as far as having sex.
If you are a student reading this blog, you know what I’m talking about. If you are a parent reading this blog, then you need to know what I’m talking about. And if you aren’t convinced, just watch any episode, of any TV show on the WB. One Tree Hill devotes many of its episodes to this topic alone…of course in their eyes it’s a great and healthy thing, promoting sexual freedom. Actually, let me extend that statement. Just watch any tv show on tv from Desperate Housewives, to Seinfeld (they had an episode where they tried to make rules for hooking-up), to any reality tv show. They all promote pretty much this lifestyle of hooking up…of course they make it look wonderful, while not showing the short and long term affects this has on one’s life and future relationship and marriage. Like “incompetence in intimacy” as the research in the posting below will talk about.
I think this is not only a big issue in both Christian and secular settings, but Christians sometimes lie to themselves the most when it comes to hooking-up. For most Christians who are waiting, or trying to wait till they are married to have sex, they often view hooking-up as an alternative to having sex. They will justify pushing the boundaries as far as they can go, without actually going all the way. When we as Christians do this, we completely ignore the other psychological, emotional, and spiritual side-effects that we not only knew would be an issue one day, but we think we can control the outcome. I am always reminded of this verse when we think we are able to actually play with fire and sin, and not get burned, “Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned? Can a man walk on hot coals without his feet being scorched?” (Proverbs 6:27-28). Hmmmm. No. In the article belowSeattle psychologist and adolescence researcher, Laura Kastner says this:
“If you’re having casual sex at 16, you don’t have the confidence to move on to dating at 18 because you don’t know how,” she says. “At 20, you feel even more awkward so you avoid dating even more. At 22, you’re like the client I saw last Friday. She knows how to hang in bars, flirt, and go home with a hook-up. She doesn’t know how to spend time with a person, one on one. That scares her. She feels like a loser, she feels disconnected and empty, and has low self-esteem.”
Check out the Tuesday column about hooking up on Relevant Magazine
Or read this interesting article on some of the new psychological research in terms of hooking up and how it is affecting people, especially youth. This was given to me by one of the pastor’s on staff. He apparently knew after 15 years of campus ministry that this is a huge topic:
‘FWB’ trend distorts the lessons of sex and loveBy Barbara F. Meltz, Globe Staff | October 21, 2004Not long ago, if a teen was in a long-standing relationship, it was reason to worry. It meant they probably were having sex. These days, it’s more likely they’re not in a relationship and having sex anyway.Their partner is likely to be a “friend with benefits.” That means they hang in the same group and know each other at least casually, but they don’t spend hours IM’ing or talking on the phone or even talking at all. They aren’t holding hands in the hall or buying each other trinkets, either. In fact, signs of affection are against the rules. It’s also a no-no to have feelings about the person or to behave like a couple. If there is sex a second or third time, and more likely they just move on to another partner, that’s all it is: serial sex.With FWB or “hooking up” (a term as unspecific and encompassing as “making out” once was), foreplay typically isn’t more than, “Do you want to –?” It is not a relationship that grows through emotional sharing, not a connection that teaches perspective or empathy, and not a chance to learn something about yourself or about what you like in a partner so you can make a smarter choice next time.Friend with benefits n, slang, also FWB. A one-time or occasional sexual partner within a subset of peers who agrees to an unspoken set of rules, esp. not having feelings about the partner; keeping feelings to oneself if they arise; not expecting social niceties such as loyalty, monogamy, or conversation. Sometimes interchangeable with hooking up.
Indeed, if there’s any learning at all, it’s “a negative mudslide,” leading to incompetence in intimacy, says Seattle psychologist and adolescence researcher Laura Kastner. Like most professionals, she has nothing good to say about the teen trend toward casual sex.”If you’re having casual sex at 16, you don’t have the confidence to move on to dating at 18 because you don’t know how,” she says. “At 20, you feel even more awkward so you avoid dating even more. At 22, you’re like the client I saw last Friday. She knows how to hang in bars, flirt, and go home with a hook-up. She doesn’t know how to spend time with a person, one on one. That scares her. She feels like a loser, she feels disconnected and empty, and has low self-esteem.”Even promiscuous college students of the ’60s and ’70s were better off. In between one-night stands, they tended to have monogamous relationships. Short-lived as those relationships may have been, Kastner says, they were at least practicing the skills that would make an intimate relationship work.Maybe our teens don’t need that practice. Maybe they’re preparing for a social convention yet to be unveiled that will replace marriage.Unlikely, says psychologist Geraldine K. Piorkowski of the University of Illinois at Chicago: “The skills that come from dating and emotional intimacy aren’t just preparation for marriage,” she says. “They’re key to human happiness. This is one thing Freud had right. Human beings are wired to need closeness and unconditional caring.” She is the author of “Too Close for Comfort: Exploring the Risks of Intimacy” (Perseus).
Researchers don’t know how prevalent FWB is; it varies from one high school or college campus to another. But they know it’s popular and growing. Jane O’Keefe of Wakefield, mother of 12-year-old Meghan, learned of it from the October issue of YM, a magazine for young teens. She picked up the issue thinking she might get a subscription for Meghan. Then she read the article on FWB headlined, “No Strings Attached.” While it says that having to conceal your true feelings about a hook-up can make you lonely, the article is otherwise an endorsement of casual sex.
O’Keefe did not get her daughter a subscription. She did invite her into the living room for a sit-down about the phenomenon. Too soon for the conversation? O’Keefe worried it was too late. “I wanted to be the first to talk to her about sexual intimacy,” she says. “Kids today have to make split-second decisions. I wanted to be sure she heard my opinion before she’s in one of those situations. I told her I don’t believe boys or girls benefit from casual encounters. To remove emotion from sex makes it meaningless and empty.”
Friend with benefits n, slang, also FWB. A one-time or occasional sexual partner within a subset of peers who agrees to an unspoken set of rules, esp. not having feelings about the partner; keeping feelings to oneself if they arise; not expecting social niceties such as loyalty, monogamy, or conversation. Sometimes interchangeable with hooking up.
Teens and young adults tend to see it differently. Bard College developmental psychologist Nancy Darling, who specializes in teen coupling, says teens cite a range of benefits to FWB: not getting stuck with one person; not having the time or wanting the responsibility for a relationship; eliminating the chance of heartbreak.
Ironically, there is potential for more hurt, not less.
“Because we are human beings, when we engage in this intimate act we do have feelings, even if the rules say you aren’t supposed to,” says Darling. In fact, the rules say you can’t even say that you have the feelings, so when you do, you have to pretend you don’t. “You can’t complain, you can’t blame, and friends aren’t so sympathetic. This can lead to as much depression as any break-up ever did,” she says.
Piorkowski explains why: “You feel ashamed for wanting closeness. ‘Everyone else is fine without it, what’s wrong with me?’ You feel bad about yourself, not for having sex, but for having feelings.”
FWB also sets young adults up to be sexually exploited. “Since the rules are that it’s no big deal, a teen who doesn’t want to [participate] feels a lot of pressure, boy or girl,” says Darling.
Judy Bohn of Arlington has seen that with her 20-year-old daughter. She managed to avoid the FWB syndrome in high school but found it pervasive at the small college she chose. “She felt like a pariah,” Bohn says, and eventually transferred to a large school where differences are tolerated.
It’s not that friendship groups are automatically bad. It’s not that there is no dating in high school or college, or that casual sex never leads to a relationship. If neither is the norm, however, it takes strength to be different. Parents can help.
“Parents do a good job of talking with teens about STDs and sexual safety, but they need to do more talking about the other aspects of a healthy relationship: mutuality, connectedness, shared interests,” says Monica Rodriguez of the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S. She says that even though your teen may sit stonily through a “conversation” in which you express your values, he or she most likely is hungry to hear what you have to say. Ideally, this begins long before adolescence. Think Jane O’Keefe.
Rodriguez is critical of popular culture’s influence on teenage sexual behavior. “Young people aren’t making this stuff up,” she says. “They’re learning it from . . . TV, movies, ads, and lyrics.”
Her advice to parents includes giving children critical-thinking skills with which to scrutinize the popular culture’s message that casual sex is easy and fun, and that everyone does it. Look at the world through your pre-teen’s or teen’s eyes and help them frame questions: What is the message here? Do I believe it? Is it for me? What do I want in my relationships? What will get me there? What won’t?
Darling says teens most likely to avoid hook-ups or FWB are those who are comfortable with emotional closeness, and who will stand up to being mistreated within a relationship, whether it’s with parents, siblings, or friends. That’s partly a matter of temperament but also a result of how well parents communicate values about intimacy.
“These are not easy conversations,” says Rodriguez. “What’s worse is to never have them at all.”
Contact Barbara Meltz at firstname.lastname@example.org
Â© Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company.