Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Harvey Mansfield on the Hook-up Culture

Harvey Mansfield is the Harvard professor of government who organized the feminism conference I attended earlier this month. He has a book review about Sex and the Soul by Donna Frietas, on the campus hook-up culture in today's Wall Street Journal. The book in question surveys the hook-up culture at relgious colleges. Here is Mansfield's excellent bottom line.
Ms. Freitas is not afraid to use a word like "soul" because her method is qualitative, a welcome contrast to quantitative social science, with its neutral questions, narrow statistics and ignorance of philosophy. Ms. Freitas gets students to talk, listens to them and asks for their reasons for believing as they do. She passes along some interesting student phrases, too: "the walk of shame" (back to your dorm the morning after), "frugaling" (pairing off short of dating) and "yes girls" (no explanation needed).

Colleges find it risky, Ms. Freitas notes, to oppose the hook-up culture. They do not boast of it when parents visit, but they are happy to look the other way throughout the year. Their main concern is to be sure that they cannot be accused of treating men and women differently, and they do not care, or do not see, that the result of sexual liberation is a culture that does harm to the young people caught within it. "Sex and the Soul" doesn't offer an easy way out, because there isn't one. But it makes us eager for something better than the goings-on at colleges today
Readers of my book, Smart Sex: Finding Life-long Love in a Hook-up World, know that I have a section called, "the walk of shame" in my chapter called, Why Recreational Sex is no Fun.
I would quibble with one thing in Mansfield's commentary: the colleges do not look the other way. Many, many colleges actively aid and abet the hook-up culture. That fact is worthy of a book on its own.

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