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The imminent decline of dating

A good friend overnighted with me as a prospective student last weekend. Being young and male, it was not surprising that one of his first questions was “So, is Wooster the kind of place where I can find girls to hook up with tonight?” Evidently, one of his missions for the visit was just to get some real college action. My answer, following just a few seconds of deliberation, was a resounding “Yes.”

I could drone on about the campus, the type of students that attend the school and the ways in which the atmosphere here seems weirdly conducive to random hooking up. Yet I think the phenomenon runs deeper than that. I’d rather take a step back and look at our society as a whole, and its degeneration into a hookup culture that characterizes the dating scene for 20-somethings. The truth is that dating has become, well, dated. And hooking up is here to stay.

There are a multitude of reasons for the decline in dating. There’s the average age of marriage, which has been steadily creeping up for decades. Many people don’t want to settle down early; for the sake of their freedom, or a career, or even the approval of peers who tend to judge those who tie the knot too soon.

“People now are more career-oriented and thinking about the economics in their lives in a way my generation didn’t even have to,” reasoned Joanne Lehman, a writing consultant at the Writing Center in Andrew Library.

And let’s be honest, even if you’re a stickler for tradition, who has the resources to dedicate to finding a victim, convincing him or her to go out to eat, and then paying for that food? Once in a while, perhaps, but unless you’re swiping the girl in to Lowry and calling it a hot date, you might find yourself with empty pockets pretty quickly.

Still, there are concerns about the rise of hooking up (a term that can encompass everything from making out to actual intercourse). Much of the stress of finding a companion, and deciding how to go about doing so, falls to girls. A great number of men are simply in it for the thrill of the ride, and are not stigmatizied for this lack of commitment. On the other hand, women are still viewed as “sexual gatekeepers,” who can either throw the gates wide open or lock them up in Maid Marian-esque fashion.

As a result of this, women are statistically more relationship-oriented, and therefore more likely to be hurt if encounters don’t result in a totally monogamous relationship. But hooking up takes so much of the ambiguity out of the equation. It makes it okay (expected, really) for both parties to remain uncommitted.

“In the casual dating category, some people think they’re headed for a long-term relationship, but there are also people who are only in it for sex. It basically brings ‘players’ and ‘non-players’ together. As a consequence, it raises the question of whether casual dating is a useful institution,” said University of Iowa sociologist Anthony Paik.

By these standards, it would seem that we have three choices. Either transparency is needed to make dating more satisfying for both parties, hook ups should be treated with more respect or we should scrap mating entirely and take full advantage of sperm banks for reproduction. In terms of hurt feelings, option number three seems the most logical, though it also sucks all the fun out of relationships.

Another, very legitimate concern is that a lifetime of casual quasi-relationships can hinder young people from actually committing in the long term. Falling too far into the hook up frame of mind could also disable people from recognizing the potential for a relationship, or being able to open up to emotionally to potential mates.

I believe in doing what you want, as long as it’s the right thing for you. I know plenty of people in solid, committed relationships that started with a casual sexual encounter. I’ve experienced it myself. The difference lies in the manner of the hook up. I’m willing to bet a fair amount of money that the “success rate” of hook ups that become relationships is driven up by premeditated hook ups with someone you know and like, versus completely random one-night stands.

In the end (in case you haven’t figured it out for yourself), it’s all about what you want out of these close encounters of the sexual kind. If you’re not looking for a love to go down in the annals of history, hooking up might be a good option. If something more comes out of it, then great! If not, it won’t be a soul-crushing thing to cry about to your friends. If, however, you are in the relationship frame of mind, for heaven’s sake don’t snag someone from the UG, show them a good time, then expect something to come of it.

For the record, my visiting friend did succeed in his “mission” that night. Case in point.

Kris Fronzak is the Editor in Chief for the Voice and can be reached for comment at HFronzak12@wooster.edu.

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