Monday, February 19, 2007

Sexual Mistreatment Linked To Girls Hooking Up?

If hooking up is defined as emotionally-detached sexual contact and people believe this harms girls and women, then rather than making the easy choice to condemn or scold those girls and women who hook up, they need to think seriously about the causes for this trend in behavior.

Note: Few people are following men around and wondering what is wrong with them when they pursue serial hook ups. In fact, when many people talk about girls and women hooking up they describe them as acting like men.

If it's okay for men to hook up and hooking up hurts girls and women then it's implied that it is okay for men to hurt girls and women through sex.

Further, the premise that girls and women are now hooking up as much as boys and men have been doing for years implies that boys and men in the past hooked up with girls and women who didn't willingly hook up. That means that for a significant number of encounters there was deception within a consensual sexual contact or there was a lack of consent.

Despite all this, it isn't the men who are scolded or lectured for their sexual behavior. They aren't told that they are stunting their character development by treating girls and women in a shallow manner.

Here are some revealing quotes from a well-written review by Kathy Dobie of a book called UNHOOKED. How Young Women Pursue Sex, Delay Love, and Lose at Both, by Laura Sessions Stepp:

Articles, op-ed pieces and radio shows have been devoted to the sexual practice of "hooking up," but Washington Post reporter Laura Session Stepp's Unhooked is the first book on the phenomenon and, one hopes, not the last. For when someone takes such a volatile aspect of young people's lives and puts it under a microscope -- or in this case, a concerned, disapproving gaze -- you want the large, well-lit view. [...]

Stepp goes on to offer something more definite: What makes hooking up unique is that its practitioners agree that there will be no commitment, no exclusivity, no feelings. The girls adopt the crude talk of crude boys: They speak of hitting it, of boy toys and filler boys, "my plaything" and "my bitch."

Why hook up? According to Stepp, college women, obsessed with academic and career success, say they don't have time for a real relationship; high school girls say lovey-dovey relationships give them the "yucks."

The women obsessed with academic and career success is, I believe, a symptom rather than a cause which fits many people's biases about what women should be doing with their lives. Same goes for not having time.

Stepp gets close to something meaningful with the last line about the "yucks" but from the rest of the review this aspect is given little real thought. Ironic considering that "yuck" is a deeply emotional response. Think of the Mr. Yuck stickers that were designed to protect small children from ingesting household poisons.

How could lovey-dovey relationships have anything in common with deadly poisons?

The author and the reviewer are making huge mistakes by not asking or seriously considering this question. Ms. Stepp has written an article based on her book, Unhooked, but this article also fails to explore this question.

From my own experience after rape committed by a boyfriend who said he loved me and who forced sex on me to show me just how much he loved me, I became cynical about the honesty of men who said they cared about me and who said that sex was an expression of their love.

To me romantic love became something corrosive packaged as something everyone is supposed to want. At the first sign of it, for at least the next 3 years, I was gone and in a panic worse than if a man pulled a knife on me.

At least knife-wielding rapists would be honest in their desire to hurt me.

To most people that makes no logical sense since stranger rapes are considered by them to be more serious crimes than rapes committed by people the victim knows. What I experienced wasn't grounded in logic, it was grounded in excruciating pain and the determination to avoid such pain in the future -- no matter the cost.

Like a victim of a mail bomb, I learned from experience that innocent-looking packages could hide destructive forces just waiting to explode. But unlike the attitudes toward mail bombers many people continue to defend the actions of men who acted like my boyfriend.

After my first rape, those who promised nothing and asked for nothing beyond the moment were like a package which was open for inspection. They might not be great packages but neither were they innocent-looking packages with jagged suprises tucked inside. At the first sign of danger I was gone.

I bumped into rapists again, but they had little emotional impact on me because I wasn't expecting anything better from them. Men attempting to rape was typical behavior and most frequently came from the men who looked the most respectable.

Those who gave me disapproving gazes for my unacceptable sexual behavior while saying or doing nothing about men's sexual behavior frequently got the middle finger salute. From my view they approved of what my boyfriend did to me, or they simply didn't give a damn, and that made them accomplices.

From their view I was just another immoral girl.

The laws have changed since I was first raped, but the behavior of my boyfriend is still repeated again and again and again. But those who exploit girls aren't limited to known boyfriends, they include teachers who use their positions to con girls into believing their lies. (hat tip to Holly) The genders can be reversed, but this isn't gender-neutral exploitation.

In a rural upstate district with 1,000 students, a music teacher had his license revoked last year after he was accused of sexual relationships with a girl from 1987 to 1989 and with another in 1997. Both girls were in the 11th grade.

One girl said she loved him after what was her first sexual encounter. "He laughed at her and then instructed her not to tell anyone about their encounters as no one would believe her and he was well connected in the music field and could have an impact on her future," the investigator's report stated.

"We need to be more concerned with the well-being of kids than the well-being of adults," said Charol Shakeshaft, a professor at Hofstra University who has studied educator sexual abuse in New York. In 2004 she wrote an analysis of the scant research in the area for the U.S. Department of Education. She found that nearly one in 10 students nationwide are targets of "educator sexual misconduct."

Do we really expect this girl or others who had love used as a weapon to be eager for more love or anything lovey-dovey any time soon?


  • One in 10 students nationwide are impacted by educator misconduct. (source: above)

  • On in 3 high school relationships have included physical or sexual abuse. (source: National Domestic Violence Hotline)

  • About 200,000 incidents of rape, attempted rape or sexual assault each year. (source: RAINN)
  • One in 4 college women are victims of sexual assault. (source: RAINN)
How can violence not have a major impact on girls' and women's attitudes toward sex and relationships?

With that level of sexual violence in the United States we can't understand patterns of consensual sexual behavior or romantic relationships -- positive or negative -- without considering the impact of sex crimes, non-criminal exploitive/abusive behaviors and without considering the prevailing attitudes toward sexual exploitation.

Yet many people analyze girls' and women's sexual behavior as if rape were nothing more than a myth that isn't even worth mentioning.
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posted by Marcella Chester @ 12:05 AM   2 comments links to this post


At February 18, 2007 11:46 PM, Blogger Holly said...

Marcella this is a very important post.
Important questions that we as society should be finding answers....excellent research.
Take care Holly Desimone

At February 20, 2007 6:38 PM, Blogger RachelsTavern said...

Going in a different direction here....

I think part of the issue with hooking up is related to the principle of least interest, which asserts that the person with the least interest has teh most power. My own experience is that many women who are hooking up (certainly not all, but many) would like to have more serious relationships with these guys. They often end up being emotional or physically abused by guys who know this. Many of the women will pretend that the hooking up aspect of relationship is really about being detached or liking sex without intimacy, but I think it is often a cover for the deep and enduring emotional pain that these relationships can cause. At this point, being detached and hooking up is much easier.

Of course, the principle of least interest is definitely tied to sexism.


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