By: Matthew Dugandzic
The desire for commitment in relationships is often thought of as feminine. Men are thought of as desiring sex for its own sake – with as many different partners as possible. The modern feminist movement, by judging women by masculine standards, has convinced many women that this “sexual freedom” is what they should want as well. It is indeed a shame that sexual purity is seen as oppressive. If only women could free themselves of the emotional shackles of their sexuality! The manifestation of this mentality in our western culture has resulted in a hook-up culture that many women, despite the modern feminist environment in which they were raised, recognize as harmful to their psychology, spirituality, indeed, their very being. While women are the obvious victims of this exaltation of frivolous sex, I think that men are also harmed by it. In fact, I think that the hook-up culture harms men even more than it harms women.
To begin, I’d like to talk about some of the basic differences between male and female psychology. Even from a young age, boys are interested in things, and girls are interested in people. Imagine two young boys, Joey and Billy, who are both about 10 years old. Joey has a video game system at his house, and he often invites Billy over to play with him. Joey may like Billy, he may like being in his company, but when he invites Billy over to play video games, it is for the sake of the video game, not necessarily for company. Joey finds video games more enjoyable with another person around, and so he likes playing with Billy. Joey and Billy could probably play for hours on end and only exchange a few words. The words that they do exchange will probably be about the video game, not about anything going on in their personal lives. Essentially, they are relating to one another indirectly through the game.
Now let’s imagine Joey and Billy as young adults. They now go by Joe and Bill and attend the same college. They might have matured at this age to the point where they can and do relate to each other directly, but any observer of their conversation would be very aware of the fact that they often talk about things in which they share an interest. They probably don’t make eye contact very much. When talking about say, sports or computers, their eyes focus on some abstract space between them where they visualize the object of their conversation. They still relate to each other in a very indirect way and their conversation is not about relating to one another but about the object in which they are both interested.
Growing up down the street from Joey and Billy are Mary and Sally. Mary invites Sally over on a regular basis to take part in a variety of activities. They like to make necklaces, have tea parties, and play on Mary’s swing set. As they get older, their interests change. However, throughout all this time, the activity that they do together is a mere excuse to see each other. Mary and Sally like their necklaces, but it really doesn’t matter what they do together. When they talk, they look each other in the eye and relate directly to one another. They form a close, personal relationship over time and will probably remain friends even if they both go away to different colleges. Joey and Billy might as well, but they will probably forget about each other as they make new friends in young adulthood. Whether they remain friends or not, the ending of their relationship will probably not be nearly as painful as the pain that Mary and Sally will endure if they cease to be friends.
The result of this psychology, that of men to be interested in things and women to be interested in people, results in very different friendship patterns in men and women. Grown men have friends for sure, but their friendships tend to be very impersonal, held together by common interests and little else. They rarely have close, personal friends in their adulthood. If they do, they usually don’t have very many. Women, on the other hand, tend to have many personal friends. If they need emotional support for whatever reason, they have girlfriends, sisters, and mothers to go to. Men tend to lack this emotional safety net… with one exception. A man’s emotional support come from the woman that he has in his life, be she a girlfriend or a wife.
What does all of this have to do with the hook-up culture? Well, to figure that out, we need to look at male sexuality. As described above, men tend to be impersonal. They do not share their feelings with their friends (unless they are very close, and even then, only on rare occasions) and they are terrified of exposing their vulnerability in public. Men’s emotions are often hidden within their consciousness, and not often brought to the surface. In fact, when it comes to verbalizing their feelings, grown men are hardly any better at this than young boys. Men do, however, have one soft spot. We are helpless when it comes to women.
A woman can turn the strongest, hardest, most confident man into a sappy, weak-kneed, hopeless romantic. I have experienced this transformation first-hand. As a young boy I was very sensitive and cried easily. As a teenager I hardened into a young man who rarely cried, was not easily perturbed, and often was only indirectly aware of his emotions. That is, for example, I would conclude that I was angry from the fact that I was yelling, not because I actually felt angry. The first time I fell in love changed all that. I cried for the first time in longer than I could remember, I felt a surge of emotions that I hadn’t felt before, my feelings found their way to my sleeves, and I even wrote a poem. I had never willingly done that on my own before. All of my poetry had been written reluctantly, under the command of an English teacher.
Men need this. This unique emotional outlet lets them feel their feelings more deeply than in any other circumstance. Their sexuality propels them to form a strong, deep, personal relationship with a woman. This is the one place where they can fully express themselves, be vulnerable, and find emotional support. Without this type of relationship in their lives, men will most likely lack the emotional safety net that women attain so easily. Without romance, men will most likely wind up living cold, detached, empty lives.
The problem with the hook-up culture is that it corrupts the natural orientation of a man’s sexuality. Male sexuality is supposed to drive a man to find its completion in another person. It propels him to pursue a women, desire to be with her, strive to win her heart, yearn to know her ever more deeply, and make promises of eternal fidelity. This is what the masculine heart wants. The hook-up culture convinces men that this sort of relationship, which tends towards exclusivity and permanence, is not fun. It’s slavery. Consequently, a man’s desires become orientated towards mere gratification. A woman becomes the means by which he achieves this gratification. In short, she becomes an object. The more a man participates in the hook-up culture, the more this objectification of women becomes rooted in his psychology. His sexuality, instead of prompting him to for a deep, personal, romantic relationship with a woman, encapsulates him within the confines of his own mind. It becomes more and more difficult for him to conceive of women as persons deserving love and respect as they slowly become mere objects of desire.
Therefore, while women are the most obvious victims of the hook-up culture, in that they are easily and evidently hurt by the discovery that their sexual encounters which were thought to be meaningful were instead about nothing but pleasure, men are severely damaged by it in a chronic way. Their ability to form meaningful relationships with women is seriously injured. They therefore lack the emotional support that is so necessary in adult life and they will find it difficult to ever escape their own psychology to find fulfillment in another person. The way for them to avoid this disastrous situation is to commit. Commitment prompts a man to channel his sexuality toward finding completion in another person to whom he will grow closer throughout his life. In doing so he will find the emotional support he needs and be able to live a life worthy of a human being.
Matthew Dugandzic holds a BSc in Biology from Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec. He is currently pursuing an MA in Theology from St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers, NY. This article originally appeared on his blog Catholic Thoughts.