eduhookups.com is the perfect manifestation of the individualism in which I have been trained in the last twenty-one years. This website, which makes available to students a “no strings attached” sexual encounter, enables the persons in my university cohort to pursue personal sexual intrigues so long as the intrigue is mutually desired by another. The site has expanded from its original UChicago locus to universities across the nation, including (but not limited to) Harvard, UC Berkeley, UC Irvine, UMichigan, NYU, Columbia, Washington University in St Louis, Northwestern, Brown, and the Jesuit stronghold of America, Boston College.
The site’s advertising is inferior on many accounts. The website proclaims boldly, “Chastity is curable if detected early.” Before I had read this enlightening banner, I had naively assumed that sexually transmitted infections are the disease. How silly- chastity is the disease! Yet despite the website’s best efforts to encourage “safe sex,” I cannot help but be a little skeptical. I doubt the perfect adherence to such advice by all participants, and I doubt the perfect medical and emotional safety of even those “safe” encounters. Happily for the site, however, poor advertising will not deter the flow of grateful masses upon the gates of Live Chat at eduHookups.
Should I mourn the loss of innocence of UChicago, Loyola University Chicago, Stanford, UCLA, and Yale? Should I wistfully glance behind at the end of the golden era of front porch courtship? No. I should do one better. I should be furious that my community has failed me. My fellow college students are merely cashing in the chips received by my cohort of America in our formative years. We have been trained to live as pure individuals without sensitivity to the nuanced virtues (yes, virtues) necessary to flourish in a sustainable community. We can have hookups because we are good classic liberals. We do no harm, and none is leveled against us. We can have hook ups because we are good capitalists. We own our bodies, we enter into agreeable contracts with other owners, and we come out of an encounter well compensated. In a culture in which the individual is the measure of her own worth and the individual is her own moral arbiter, the individual can do whatever she wants.
My elementary school taught me that I was “incredibly unique,” along with the other twenty-two boys and girls in my class. This is not possible, the first reason being that “unique” is not a quantifiable quality. We girls were particularly lucky; we received all the benefits of the “Girl Power” movement. Such an environment certainly pampered the ego, but it did not necessarily prepare me for contribution to a flourishing community. It trained me to be the model monad. I will admit, I learned to share on the playground (-not at the lunch table, mind you.) Yet, I did not practice inter-dependence nor did I form my judgment against a standard of excellence. I built up a vision of myself ripe from the vine of Western training in personal license.
My middle school taught me that I have personal rights. “It’s a free country!” as a defense of action replaced the “My brother can beat up your brother” (or the privileged kid version, “my lawyer Dad can sue your Dad.”) A good citizen should know the workings of her state; my high schools taught me about the noble statutes and traditions that sustain these rights. I learned very much about how a bill becomes a law, however, and very little about the virtues upon which my liberal political state depends. In order for a good Kantian state to flourish, a good Kantian state depends upon a unitive element between its citizens funded by common culture. I never heard about “cultural funding for good liberalism:” to presume to teach (or open debate upon) such a personal life-preference would be an egregious break with decorum! So instead, I did not grapple with the possible dangers of a Western mentality of individualism- and I was ready to matriculate at UPenn or Cornell, and register on eduhookups.com.
What is at stake here? A hook up is a consensual exchange of sex. It is consensual, and it might not be the most worthy moment of a college student’s moral life, but it is not necessarily destructive either. (Shall we make this our telos? To pursue “not necessarily destructive” action?) I believe that what is at stake is the foundation of liberalism. A good liberal society needs a balance between the monad life we lead and the positive community upon which its flourishing depends. The hook up culture prepares us to be poor citizens, practiced in unsustainable relationships, objectifying encounters, and selfish decisions. Despite encouraging apparent communion between persons, eduhookups is an individual-creating (or individual-perpetuating) machine. It trains its participants to view a fellow human being as a means to an end and a collection of body parts. It also demands of its adherents a certain lifestyle that builds purposefully unstable community and expends energy on purposefully impermanent things.
An average college student has been conditioned to equate happiness with thrill. If she does not demand more from her environment, she will probably contribute to its perpetuation. This is not the road to the flourishing of which we educated and excellent students are capable. On UVa grounds, we recently began a pro-marriage group, Off the Hook. In light of the reality of eduhookups, we focus our energies on enjoining our fellow students to carefully consider the implications of an individualistic community. We use the resources and networks offered by the Love and Fidelity Network to explore this question (and spend our Thursday afternoons of Virginia sunshine writing blog entries on the hook-up culture.) We have a vision for the future in which all persons’ actions are oriented toward a sustainable and flourishing good life. Our American community deserves more nuanced citizens, more fruitful practices and pastimes, fuller educational philosophies, and finally – more accurate diagnoses of “disease.”
Special Thanks to Maria Pluta. Maria is a senior at the University of Virginia and a Student Fellow with the Love and Fidelity Network. She recently founded and currently acts as president of the student group “Off the Hook,” a group dedicated to upholding sexual integrity on college campuses. Off the Hook helped co-host the 2011 Regional Conference with the Love and Fidelity Network. For more information on how you can support these efforts, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.