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Video: Is traditional dating dead?

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    >>> this morning on "today's" relationship. couples connecting in new ways. as we mentioned a new minutes ago, the cdc says young women are waiting longer to get married or living with their partners first. turns out, these days casual is the name of the game . the pick you up at 8:00 date is long gone. so is dating dead?

    >> from glee --

    >> i don't know what's going to happen in the future, i know i want to be with you now.

    >> i want someone who wants to hang out all the time and thinks i'm the best person in the world and wants to have sex with only me.

    >> reporter: dating is a far cry from what it used to be.

    >> nowadays, people want to hang out and everything is a lot more casual.

    >> a new generation, coming of age with fewer rules.

    >> dating as we're supposed to know it is essentially dead so that actually we're living in a post dating world where the old rules and guidelines no longer apply.

    >> the post dating world is what we call our modern era . now there's a million ways for that guy to get to know you better without asking you on a date.

    >> reporter: dates are out and group hangouts are in. to get to know one another, many embrace social media .

    >> people also falling for each other over technology. so everything from texting and instagram to gchat and e-mail.

    >> and as many delay marriage, exp ear experts say there's less drive to couple up early.

    >> traditional dating was the beginning of looking for a husband and wife. if people aren't going to get married until their late 20s, what are they going to do dating early on? it's going to set up things they really don't want to have happen for a while. they want to get their life going before they quote, unquote settle down.

    >> you need to forget all the rules you know. forget what it means when he does xy and z and trust it's going to go in the right place.

    >> donna is the author of "the end of sex." and the relationship expert, good morning to you both.

    >> good morning.

    >> i have to start with you, with a book title like that, you get the first question. young people , confused about intimacy, unhappy. explain first what exactly is hook-up culture?

    >> well, it's -- let me differentiate between a hook-up. people tend to think of a hook-up as this very liberating thing. it's a brief sexually intimate encounter. anything from kissing to sex as most students will say. but a culture of hooking up is where the hook-up becomes the norm. to the point where young people don't see any other option.

    >> but there are people out there, young people who want the old dating culture. what happens to them?

    >> well, i wouldn't say they want the old dating culture.

    >> more traditional.

    >> they want the option to date in a pretty old school way. so most of the students i talked to say that they like having the option to hook up, but they wish it wasn't their only option. and the reason why they don't date even though they really wish they could is because they don't have the skills. and they feel like no one else wants to.

    >> let me bring you in on this, is hook-up culture a bad thing? is it damaging? or is it just the next thing in relationships?

    >> you know, it's potentially damaging. i think you're right, it's the natural evolution of things. the culture changes and it could be potentially damaging because people aren't ready for the disconnect that comes with that instant emotion. okay. and whether it be a feeling of rejection or not unfulfilled, there's surprise on the back end where this is going to be a quick fun thing. but wow, now i feel bad.

    >> true, though, people are getting married later in life now. could this just be that phase in life that fills the space for some people?

    >> i think so. it's a natural progression of things. but, however, if that's not your natural progression how you want it, you can opt out.

    >> how would that work? how does someone opt out of hook-up culture? you say the people who do have trouble getting out or finding that alternative. how should they go about that if they don't want that lifestyle?

    >> well, i think that's the million dollar question in a lot of ways. what's amazing is that you have so many young people who are saying they don't like living in hook-up culture and they wish for a way out but they can't see that way out. and they also believe they're the only one that feels that way. and so one of the first things i usually tell them is you are so not the only one that feels that way. all of your peers feel that way but they're afraid to say something too. know you're in good company. know if you go and ask someone out, they're probably going to be excited about it.

    >> you have some good tips for people who want to build a healthy relationship. you say they should set boundaries, be selfish, and establish transparency. what do you mean there?

    >> absolutely. sharer beware. this is an age of instant information. everyone's got tons of access to you. it's not dependent on the amount of likes or re-tweets you get. set those boundaries, be selfish. if you want somebody to love you and only you, that's totally okay. if you want to do the hook-up thing, that's okay too. know what you're getting into. and be transparent. tell the person, hey, i know this is nuts, i know it's overwhelming. if you're not into it, it's totally okay. now you've set the stage.

    >> donna, very quickly. you say you're hopeful despite everything we've just said. why?

    >> well, i am. because when i talk to students and young people about this topic, i see so much yearning and so much launch for love and something other. and so, you know, just what, you know it's just said about how young people need to think about what do i want and how can i go about getting it? and remember the fact they do have a choice and they can make choices on their own. they don't have to go along with what they see is what everyone's doing.

    >> we appreciate your advice and input on this. good to see you both.

TODAY books
updated 4/3/2013 4:54:37 PM ET 2013-04-03T20:54:37

In “The End of Sex,” Donna Freitas examines how in the current, feverish sexual climate where the hookup is all important, an entire generation has become completely adrift from the concepts of meaningful, emotional intimacy. Here's an excerpt

Hooking up, I would say, is anything involving kissing, touching, feeling, or any kind of sexual activity. It could be as small as kissing someone for a few minutes, or as much as having sex with them.

That’s not okay, like, in Hookup World.

There are no strings. You just do it, you’re done, and you can forget about it.

Clearly, a “hookup” today is not about getting together to go to the movies. But it isn’t necessarily a one-night stand, either. So many of us make assumptions about the term “hooking up” because we have heard it batted around on television, read about it in newspapers and magazines, or overheard our children discussing it. We rarely stop our hand-wringing long enough to define our terms. What is a “hookup”? How does a sexual encounter qualify as one, and what makes it different from those that would not be considered in the same light?

Several articles that drew national attention gave the American public its first glimpses into hookup culture. In 2006, Caitlin Flanagan’s much-talked-about article on the topic in The Atlantic, “Are You There God? It’s Me, Monica,” set off alarm bells far and wide. Flanagan wrote about an alleged blow-job epidemic among teenagers and puzzled over why, given the so-called female empowerment we had achieved, girls had become so careless about their own behavior and pleasure and so focused on pleasing boys sexually. Then, in 2010, Flanagan took on hookup culture more directly with “Love, Actually,” an article, also appearing in The Atlantic, about how hookup culture was robbing girls of the “Boyfriend Story” they really wanted. She wondered how sexual liberation had come to be equated with the ability to endure a hookup. Her own under- standing of sexual liberation was something far more moderate and involved finding a middle road between sex equaling marriage, family, and domesticity, on the one hand, and sex equaling nothing at all, not even self-respect, on the other. Hookup culture not only robbed girls of the love story they really wanted, she said, it also robbed them of true sexual liberation.

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Flanagan’s critique was spot on, yet she fell into the trap of assuming, like so many people, that hookup culture was a culture that served and was perpetuated by boys. This view leaves out a discussion of how boys feel about hookup culture. Also, like Hanna Rosin, who used anecdotal evidence to draw her conclusions, Flanagan failed to base her observations on rigorous data. Instead, she relied on personal reflection and news reports as “evidence” of what was going on with America’s teens and young adults.

In order to understand hookup culture, it is important to move past such alarmist public dialogue in order to grasp what such an encounter is, according to young adults who actually engage in the behavior. The only definitions that matter are those given to us by the kids who are hooking up. To find out what those definitions are, we must ask them.

“Hooking up can vary from a make-out session to having sex. . . . Then, with certain situations, you’ll know that it’s going to go further than that,” said one young woman I interviewed, a sophomore at a Catholic college. By “further,” she didn’t mean physically, but emotionally. During a hookup, if a person allows emotions to enter into the experience, he or she is betraying the social contract a hookup requires and will have to pay for this transgression. “That is where you set yourself up for heartache,” she said. “That is where that whole morning- after thing hurts.”

Another young woman, also a sophomore at a Catholic college, reiterated this belief. A hookup, as far as sexual intimacy goes, she said, is broadly understood to include just about every type of activity imaginable. “A good number of people under- stand hooking up as a Saturday night they made out with some- one. And that was that,” she said. “Then there are people who understand it as a Saturday night they had sex with someone. And that was that. . . . There’s no relationship, no strings attached. It’s not supposed to be something that either person dwells on. It’s not supposed to go anywhere.” For this young woman and for most of the students with whom I have spoken, the “anywhere” to which they are not supposed to go is a relationship, and the “something” on which they are not sup- posed to dwell is the sexual intimacy exchanged. Theoretically, everyone is supposed to be able to walk away from the experience as if it did not happen, because this is what the social contract asks of them.

Basic Books
The types of activities that hookups involve may leave out emotional attachment, but they leave out little in the way of what is permitted by the activity itself. On a number of occasions, students claimed that oral sex and kissing basically stood side by side in the spectrum of sexual intimacy. A junior at a private-secular university explained to me that oral sex has “turned into the new making out.” “Instead of just kissing,” she said, “do that.”

Nor is hooking up a phenomenon just for the straight man or woman on campus. Gay and lesbian students are also caught up in hookup culture. One woman, a senior at a secular university who identified as queer, said that although she equated hooking up with kissing, she felt that for her friends and peers, “oral sex is maybe [the] most preferred” type of sexual content. A gay sophomore at a Catholic school said that for his peers, a hookup could be anything from one-time sex during a “one- night stand” to occasional sex, “depending on your definition of sex.” What defined a hookup more than the sex itself was the perception of its meaning (or lack thereof) by both participating parties. “It’s nothing serious, and not expected to last,” this sophomore stressed.

Other students had succinct descriptions of the hookup that were similar. A hookup is “one sexual encounter that has no commitment involved,” said a first-year man at a Catholic college. “It’s like you conquered something,” said a junior at a private-secular school. The object of conquest for this young man was not so much a woman but fulfillment of a social expectation. This is true for many young men, who both engage in the behavior and are often its primary instigators.

A senior woman at a private-secular institution told me that a hookup was “purely physical [and] emotionally unattached.” Another, at a private-secular university, said that a hookup “can run the gamut of any sexual activity . . . making out all the way to having sex.” And a sophomore man at a public university echoed this refrain, describing a hookup as “any sort of romantic or sexual moment between any two people.” He added, after a pause, that, “for some people, it’s just a sexual conquest.”

As for what people are supposed to get out of a hookup, the students were not always so certain: “sexual gratification,” said one young man from a private-secular school, although he later added that he wasn’t sure this was always, or even usually, the case, especially for the female parties involved.

Excerpted with permission from The End of Sex: How Hookup Culture Is Leaving a Generation Unhappy, Sexually Unfulfilled, and Confused About Intimacy, by Donna Freitas. Available from Basic Books, a member of The Perseus Books Group. Copyright © 2013.

© 2012 MSNBC Interactive


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