Hand-wringing over what has become known as hookup culture is nothing new, of course — the panicky-sounding term has been around for decades now. But a hookup is not always the blithe and meaningless sex with strangers that the term conjures. Even among college students, it’s defined differently from person to person and situation to situation. It could mean anything from kissing to intercourse, with a crush, with a friend, or, yes, sometimes with a relative stranger. The script, according to this ritual, is: First you fuck, then (perhaps) you date. Or, more likely, you just continue to hook up, creating a long-term relationship — minus feelings, theoretically — out of a series of one-night stands.
You mean they make their own decisions about their bodies and what they do with them? GASP PEARLCLUTCH. Imagine. The nerve.
We don’t trust anyone else to do what we did. Maybe because it was so difficult for us, figuring our shit out, or maybe just because we’re more comfortable in misery than we are in hope, but we don’t trust that anybody else is gonna be able to come through adolescence being mostly all right.
Look at the shit that’s still being written about Millennials, who are like 30 now. They’re still getting pilloried as entitled, brand-obsessed posers who live in their parents’ basements.
We don’t trust that some young woman (or young man, though all this is generally couched in terms of the young ladies who are too dumb to know they are being exploited) will be smart enough to say you, I want to get with you and here is how. We don’t trust that some young people will be able to get their heads around who they are and what they want from each other (if they want anything at all).
We don’t trust that if they screw up and they will, they’ll be able to pick themselves back up and start again.
We don’t trust them to handle information about contraception, abortion, consent, rape, STDs, or babies, either, because their fragile little minds. We simultaneously infantilize them and blame them for their infancy.
The kids will be FINE. Sometimes I wonder if this is me being lazy, thinking the kids will be fine, but I know they will be fine. If I am fine, and I did some profoundly stupid shit in college with regard to my love life, anyone can be fine. In fact, these kids are smarter and braver and have more access to information than I did. If I’d been able to Google the unsuitable weirdos I was dating or the one I eventually fell hard and dumb for, I would have been a lot more careful with my heart.
And that’s what really matters here. It’s not how many sessions of sex you have with how many partners of which gender or whatever. It’s not what happens in the tunnel of love, it’s how bruised you are at the end. I know people who had tons of sex in school who weren’t as wrecked as people who had none, and all that matters is that you’re not so bruised and battered you can’t be what you want, with who you want, eventually. We lose sight of that, because we don’t think anyone else could survive what we survived. We don’t think anyone else is as strong as we are.
They are. They’re stronger.