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Boys on the Side: A Dangerous Dish

Let’s face it. When it comes to casual sex, many young women don’t claim the role of the duped and bewildered teenager, crying into her pillow because “she thought it was love”. Instead, some women willingly embrace the hook-up culture as a temporary replacement for more meaningful and long-term relationships to give themselves the time and energy to devote to starting their careers.

Hanna Rosin argues in her controversial article, “Boys on the Side“, that this hook-up mentality has actually been a boon for women, stating that women perpetuating a culture of sex without commitment has fueled feminine progress. Rosin points to the increasing number of dry-eyed and desensitized women emerging from college who have had something akin to a “long and comical sexual journey” and are without committed relationships or wedding rings to “get in the way” of their bigger plans. She argues that these women are free from the burdensome restraints of monogamy and pursuing prestigious, well-paying jobs. But is emotional detachment from sexual attachment truly a sign of female progress?

The truth is, most of us see success and happiness having as much to do with love and intimate relationships as with career aspirations. In fact, in one survey cited by Rosin, 90 percent of college students who responded said they wanted to get married. Women may desire loving relationships and marriage in the long run, but the thought of navigating marriage and children could be daunting for a young woman preparing for a career. Thus, it may be enticing to buy in to the hook-up mentality, believing that we can be unaffected and disengaged from the intimacy of sex one moment, and then like a Jedi mind trick on ourselves, wave our fingers and suddenly know how to be emotionally available in the next.

Verily’s Editor-in-Chief, Kara Eschbach, and I explore the dilemmas of Rosin’s argument in our recent article on MercatorNet, A dangerous dish on the cultural menu:

None of this is to say that women should not pursue careers or that they need to “find a husband” early in life. But it is dangerous to believe that there aren’t long-term consequences to teaching ourselves to value our careers first and to use people for momentary sexual gratification without any promise of long-term commitment.

Can a lifestyle of self-centered sexual gratification really aid in a lifetime of successful relationships? You can read the rest of our response here.

Photo via flickr user kidoki
Monica Gabriel
By: Monica Gabriel

Monica is the Relationship Editor for Verily Magazine and Managing Editor for i Believe in Love. Monica surveys cultural trends and shares her thoughts on relationships and womanhood.

5 Comments

  1. Kimberly says:

    Thank you for publishing this article and several other articles that promote a true self-resect for women. Many might confuse this kind of self respenct with prudishness or puritainism; I would have to disagree. As a young woman in my mid-twenties, I have been involved in this hook up culture and have had a long term relationship. I would have to completely disagree with Rosin. Perhaps my brief time involved in this culture was rebellion from my upbringing or rebound from heartache, but I can tell you that it left me feeling empty and not empowered at all. I also have friends who, now married, lived that lifestyle. Some say they feel absolutely ashamed. And who says that a long term, committed relationship has to interfere with education and career goals? My sister has been with her husband since she was 16, and nothing has stopped her from getting her M.P.H. and traveling and working with UNICEF. Bravo, Verily.

  2. Julie says:

    This article just reminds me how much I love that old suffragette slogan, “Votes for women, chastity for men”. Has the double standard really been challenged in the last 100-150 years? If men sleep around and use women for their own pleasure according to every whim, society doesn’t condemn them — and now maybe it condemns women who do the same less, hooray? Our feminist foremothers would be so disappointed.

  3. Julie says:

    Oh, also: Rosin says that girls are the initiators/perpetuators now of the hookup culture, and that was more or less my experience in college. But when girls talked about it, it was almost always in terms of “that’s just how it is” or “there’s no such thing as dating here, you just have to go for it” or whatever. I don’t think it was really a joyful-empowerment thing so much as a grim do-what-you-have-to-do thing. From my perspective, as a chaste single woman, I don’t think many people actually “achieve” no-strings though. Girls who are in even casual relationships still spend lots of time and energy on them and moving in together is an anchor whether you get married first or not. Breaking up a sexual relationship is, as we all know, waaaay messier than a non-sexual one. Plus I don’t see where the hook-up culture makes girls feel like they can do without a man. If anything they get caught in anxiety about “dry spells”!

  4. Maria says:

    I have to say, I really enjoyed your article on mercator.net and have been a fan of Verily’s style and thoughtfulness since its inception! I love this magazine.

    However, I was really surprised and saddened to see an article on Mercator.net subtitled “A philosophical reflection on what’s wrong with the concept of same-sex marriage.” There were another handful of articles on this site about same-sex marriage’s supposed negative effect on children and its unhealthiness for society. As a bisexual Verily fan who’s dating a woman, I was really disappointed to see great work like your article featured alongside these viewpoints.

    I guess my main question is: does Verily welcome and embrace women of all kinds? Or do the editors espouse the (hurtful) views I found on Mercator.net? Is there going to be a space for me, a woman who is very happily dating another woman, at this magazine?

    thanks.

  5. […] at Verily Magazine, Kara Eschbach and Monica Gabriel respond to an article in The Atlantic that touted “Boys on the […]

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