Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Here We Go Again

Here we go again.

Moral hysteria has raised its ugly head once more, this time in a new book, Unhooked: How Young Women Pursue Sex, Delay Love and Lose at Both by Laura Sessions Stepp. In this book, the author uses junk science to back up her disapproval of the growing trend among young, unmarried women who view sex as men always have and who are engaging in one-night stands; random "hookups", to use the current common parlance. Not limiting her classification of a "hookup" as simply a one-time sexual encounter, Stepp paints with a broad brush including make out sessions and falling asleep half clothed on the same bed under the same label.

She laments the decline of traditional, old-fashioned dating, but what especially draws her ire is the fact that these women are engaging in sex for sex's sake, and are not looking for love and/or commitment.

Included in the book are interviews with six sexually active, young, college women, all from privileged backgrounds

Stepp claims to be a feminist, but she comes off sounding like a member of the fundamentalist Moral Majority. She takes a patronizing tone with women, telling them they don't really like going out carousing, getting drunk and getting laid; they just think they do, regardless of what they say.

She trots out the tired, junk science "oxytocin" argument, most recently promoted by Dr Eric Keroack, an anti-choice advocate recently appointed by President Bush to oversee federal family planning programs. The oxytocin theory claims that women, but not men, produce oxytocin, a chemical that makes them "bond" with their sexual partner, and that women who have multiple partners ultimately stop producing oxytocin, which would make it difficult, if not impossible for them to later settle down with one partner into a monogamous relationship.

Stepp also drags out the musty old assertion that women are naturally coy and not biologically suited to initiating sex, which has been largely disproven by recent research. She claims that modern society has made women think they "have to" go out and pursue men, when what they'd really rather be doing is waiting quietly at home for men to make the first move.

She also advocates a return to the sexual double standard: men initiate, women wait, for what she claims are feminist reasons: so that young woman will avoiding getting hurt (as if hurt is inevitable and women could not possibly know their own minds) and that "loving relationships" will occur later in life.

Stepp believes that love, not academic or career ambitions, should be the focus of young women's energies. "When you talk about ambition, there's probably no one who's more ambitious than I was in college," she said. "But I didn't want to let that ambition get in the way of having boyfriends."

Apparently, Stepp is about as much of a feminist as Al Sharpton is a member of the KKK.

A "one size fits all" approach to sex and relationships is maladaptive in my opinion. Sure, old-fashioned dating suits some people, but, for others, either for a time in their lives, or permanently, casual sex suits their lives better. The predisposition for initiating or for coyness varies greatly among individuals of both genders, and neither way is intrinsically "wrong". People should feel free to find out what works best for them without prudish, condescending harridans like Stepp trying to make them feel guilty.

Stepp fails to prove her assertion that women lose out when they delay love and committed relationships in college. The vast majority of women who engage in hookups eventually settle down into committed, monogamous relatiionships after college, and for the ones who don't, so what? Not everyone needs or wants monogamy or commitment. And that goes for women as much as it goes for men.


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