LTE: Another Response to “The Outdated ‘Dating Assignment'”

In her recent column, Rachel Loos criticizes Kerry Cronin’s famous dating assignment and declares it “a desperate scramble to re-establish the archaic forms of romantic relationships.” Her argument has two main contentions. First, that sex can precede or even ignore emotional involvement; and second, that the hookup culture liberates sex from a traditional male power structure.

Loos claims that Cronin creates a false dichotomy by “[arguing] that traditional dating and romantic, monogamous relationships lead to emotional fulfillment, while hooking up leads to loneliness.” Loos believes that sometimes sex can come before emotional attachment or even without any emotional attachment. What’s lost in Loos’ argument is the undeniable, unavoidable meaning the human sexuality possesses. Sex is meaningful. It carries with itself an unrivaled intimacy with another person that cannot be undermined through mere force of will.

Would it not make sense, therefore, for one to build his/her way up to this intense level of intimacy? After all, getting to know a person is a gradual process. Physical intimacy should grow naturally in correlation with knowledge of and feelings for the other person, culminating eventually in the act of sex. Dating is simply the means by which we come to know and admire the other person. It’s a careful (and fun!) process of discernment. Hooking up, that is sex before or outside of this discernment process, is simply imprudent. It is like investing in a company without knowing anything about its stock price, its history, or even what it sells.

Loos also argues, via Hanna Roisin of The Atlantic, that: “In this ‘hookup culture,’ women are given control over their lives and their bodies, and may have significant power over men.” This very well may be true. Other authors have thoroughly contested this claim; however, let’s say that Loos is correct here. My question is this: why on earth is that a good thing? Sex is still reduced to a relationship of power, only now the oppressed has become the oppressor. Should not our goal be to liberate sexuality from any and all power dynamics? Sexuality should be understood through love and self-gift, rather than power and control. However, love and self-gift require that we know the other person and cultivate our feelings for them through a process of discernment. In other words, it requires something like dating.

In the end, the cardinal sin of the hookup culture is not sexual promiscuity; it’s aiming too low. This culture reduces a beautiful human activity to something far short of its true potential. That’s why Kerry Cronin’s dating assignment is so important. It pushes us to aim higher in a world insistent on telling us it’s not worth it.

Ethan Mack, GMCAS ’17

Featured Image by Savanna Kiefer / Heights Staff