Why Technology, Hookup Culture, and Feminism are Confusing Gen Y about Courtship

Hey, y’all. I wrote this research paper about dating in the 21st century. Here is a (partially) condensed version.


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A tension pervades all interactions between the sexes in dating and courtship—the need for emotional intimacy versus the desire for sexual contact. It is not just women who are perplexed by their role in the dating game; in fact their male counterparts arguably have a higher level of confusion because this tension breeds insecurity, a trait not tolerated in their gender binary. David Wyatt Seal and Anke D. Ehrhardt’s “Masculinity and Urban Men: Perceived Scripts for Courtship, Romantic, and Sexual Interactions with Women” touches on this tension, illustrating some of the heterosexual scripts at the cause of some of this inner conflict, and summarizing that changing societal norms have exacerbated this tension.

These gendered scripts can lead to confusion in courtship, sex, and dating, but technological advances offer even more bewilderment. There was a time when people interacted solely face-to-face. Nowadays, that concept is a joke—the “Technological Revolution” makes that very clear. Smartphones have certainly catered to society’s want of instant gratification—no one can argue otherwise. The market thrives on the now in a continuous torrent of social media updates and streaming web feed, which placates consumer and provider. And it would seem to the untrained eye that modern dating has benefited from this technology, what with texting, online dating websites and apps like Tinder that help the socially and romantically challenged. This is an illusion. In fact, modern technology and social media is hindering potential relationships.

Popular sites in the virtual community that is social media all serve the purpose of creating a connection. If the connection a consumer seeks is romantic, all one has to do is follow a potential partner on their social media profile of choice. Though this practice gains insight, it is not helpful in the long run. Every post, comment, ‘like,’ ‘tweet,’ and photo is a reflection of how a person wants to be perceived. But in any relationship, romantic or friendly, one should learn for himself or herself someone’s character away from the screen.

Text messaging is another easy way to communicate quickly with a relative stranger in hopes of developing a relationship. When it was first created, texting was seen as a less intimidating way to ask a female out on a date because it spares embarrassment in case of rejection. If one was accepted, they put away phones and met in person. Due to the development of smartphones, the text has surpassed this innocent custom.

Texting may be easy, but it sure is hard to build intimacy and romance through a device that does not analyze body language, sarcasm, or eye contact. Humans are mammals who crave companionship and proximate interaction, and technology that removes voice and facial features is not beneficial to us as instinctive creatures. Texting allows for deceit, avoidance in the guise of naïveté or accident, inappropriate conduct that is easier to perform, and ultimately confusion over a person’s relational wants and attitudes.

“Tinder,” a smartphone app loosely based on dating, altered the face of college campus flings forever when it debuted in September 2012. Tinder, and its homosexual, sibling app Grinder, follows a “hot-or-not” protocol when it comes to matching users in a specific region. Its online statement is vague, but the message is clear; “fucking and forgetting” has never been easier, especially in today’s hookup culture.

“Hookup culture” could be called a relaxed carnal urbanity that discourages any emotional bonding whatsoever. But for all it entails, this culture cannot be so easily defined. “Hooking up” was not a socially acceptable form of distraction until the late 20th century. One can find the hookup culture almost anywhere in urbanized America, but it dominates the college campus scene.

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Fucking and forgetting. Banging and bolt. Screwing around. Getting some strange. The words and phrases associated with this scene are a transaction between emotional bonding and sexual gratification, effectively distancing one from the carnal act. While Freitas disapproves of this philosophy, journalist Hannah Rosin supplies that no-strings-attached sex frees young women to focus on their careers, instead of getting distracted by relationship.

Formerly I briefly highlighted the need for sexual versus emotional intimacy, and the mounting strain between these two needs due to shifting societal standards. A major source of these shifting standards is feminism, exclusively Third-Wave feminism. This wave directly challenges many of perceived heterosexual scripts Seal and Ehrhardt describe in their study of urban men. Feminists continually advocate female initiation as a way to establish equality from the start of the courtship sequence, suggesting, “You call him.”

Feminist theory also takes great offense to patriarchal attitudes of women’s place in society, citing them as hypocritical and oppressive (bell hooks). “Masculinity and Urban Men” exposes a highly hypocritical line of thought when the men condemn a woman for being too easy and not virtuous enough, though they already slept with her. For a movement that stresses equality between sexes, genders, and sexualities, this notion is disheartening.

It is not to say that technology has no benefit in our lives. On the contrary, technology allows us to achieve great things in a tenth of the time. We may speak to our Swedish pen pal half a world away by pressing a few buttons. We may learn quicker to become more successful in a highly competitive job market. We may tell our children we love them when we cannot meet any other way. However, there are significant problems that arise from these technologies, which more often than not alienate us from the outside world and create a false sense of intimacy among strangers and social media.

Just as there are several problems with modern technology, traditional dating and courtship customs reinforce gender roles that both guide and confuse young men and women seeking partnered relationships. Sexual education teaches children and young adults how to have safe sex to combat sexually transmitted diseases; it also discourages romantic relationships, because academic success is more important. These added pressures lead Generation Y to escape through hookup culture, a scene that solidifies the gender roles feminism hopes to partially strip away.

Society is in a continuous war between old and new, tradition and modernism, heteronormativity and feminist/queer theory. The freedom obtained from embracing a liberal view of sex, gender and dating—combined with the knowledge of traditional “courtship rules”—provides a healthier and longer relationship. The only way to win is to compromise, because all perspectives provide cultural benefits that are here to stay.

 

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