Healthy Family | Home Safety | Health and Wealth | Relationship Issues | Career Advice | Growing Family
Get the SixWise e-Newsletter FREE!
Google Web
Free Newsletter Subscription
Get the Web's Most trusted & Informative Health, Wealth, Safety & More Newsletter -- FREE!


Share Email to a Friend Print This

Why Commitment Matters So Much
(Especially in the Era of the Random "Hook-Up")
by Rachel G. Baldino, MSW, LCSW for


In her book, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Women, Sex, and Feminism, author Carrie L. Lukas reports that "hooking up" is defined as "sexual interaction that could be anything from kissing to intercourse without commitment. Hooking up typically takes place between people who don't know each other very well and is usually fueled by alcohol."

Indeed, "hooking up" has become such a prevalent activity among young men and women of dating age today that the good old-fashioned art of "dating" or "wooing" or "courtship" has been all but forgotten ... or at least cast aside.

In fact, Amber Madison, a young sex columnist who graduated from Tufts University (where she majored in human sexuality), has just written a book called ... you guessed it ... Hooking Up: A Girl's All-Out Guide to Sex and Sexuality.

The book, which covers a number of useful sub-topics within the umbrella topic of women's sexuality, is generally being marketed as a fun, chatty-but also medically factual-guidebook for girls and young women who have several questions, not only about all things sex-related, but also about intimacy and dating relationships.

But what strikes me first and foremost as such a (sad) sign of the times is the book's title: Hooking Up.

hooking up

'Hooking up' with virtual strangers can have serious emotional consequences.

Notice how the young author does not call her book A Young Woman's Guide to Dating and Romance in the Twenty-First Century, or Getting Serious: How To Form and Maintain Committed, Healthy, Loving and Lasting Relationships In A Hook-Up World.

Indeed, the title strikes me as a stark, honest-and actually rather depressing-acknowledgement of just how complicated and messy today's dating world can be.
I don't want to discount what Ms. Madison has to say, as I certainly have no interest in "shooting the messenger," when she is only describing (straight from the dating trenches), what it feels like to be a young woman today.

I am just saying that I'm sad that this is what it has all come down to: hooking up.

The Self-Destructive Side of "Hooking Up"

No matter which way anyone tries to slice it, regularly engaging in random "hook-ups" (or "booty calls" or "casual sex" or "one-night-stands"), with virtual strangers (or even with non-committal, so-called "friends"), is generally not an emotionally healthy or satisfying way to conduct one's dating life.

In fact, a pretty powerful argument could even be made that it is actually quite self-destructive and spirit-crushing.

And no, I am not a prude or an old fuddy-duddy.

It's just that I have a professional background in counseling, which means that I have actually provided therapy to several people who have had to pick up the emotional pieces of their lives after engaging in a variety of self-destructive behaviors ... including promiscuous sexual behavior.

Is there such a thing as a totally healthy "hooking up" experience, in which both partners get exactly what they want and need out of the experience, and neither one feels hurt or used or misunderstood or angry in the aftermath?

Maybe ... but I would hazard to guess that such super-duper-positive "hooking up" experiences are not all that common ... especially for the young women involved.


Well, there are probably several reasons, but one of the most important ones is captured nicely in the following quote, taken from a recent interview given by Ms. Madison (the author of Hooking Up), to Sara Dyer, a reporter for The Colgate Maroon News, Colgate University's student newspaper:

Here is the brief excerpt from that interview, (SD is Sara Dyer and AM is Amber Madison):

SD: "You comment on how a girl that hooks up a lot is a slut and a guy who hooks up a lot is a pimp. I think [the stereotype] is pretty pervasive in our culture, and definitely true on many of college campuses. Do you think there's any hope for combating this social stereotype?"

AM: "One thing that I think is really important that helps me deal with that is recognizing (and this sounds pretty basic) ... women have sexual desires and sexual drives and sexual needs. Maybe sex is something that women do want to do, not always for the emotional bond and not for the guy; it's something that women want to do for themselves and get physical enjoyment out of it."

Of course, by now everyone realizes that young women have sexual desires, just as young men do. This is not exactly a newsflash in 2006.

But whether we like it or not, even sex experts like Ms. Madison, are forced to concede that, to this day, society-at-large still regards men who sleep with a lot of women as Casanovas and women who sleep with a lot of men as tramp or sluts. It's not fair and it's not just, but there is simply no getting around this ugly, basic truth.

Granted, a counter-argument can be made that young women who "hook up" frequently are simply rebelling against a society that so rudely and condescendingly denounces them as "sluts" for engaging in such behavior.

But there are probably dozens of other, far more emotionally healthy ways to rebel against a society that admittedly doesn't always play fair.

The Double-Standard ... and the Risks of Trying to Break It

Because as horrible as this double standard is, when young women choose to ignore it, or make the choice to deliberately rebel against it, not only do they run the risk of losing their "good reputations," but they also run the emotional risk of potentially sacrificing their positive views of themselves.

To return, for a moment, to The Politically Incorrect Guide to Women, Sex, and Feminism, if young women make the decision (both individually and collectively), to move away from self-destructive, promiscuous, "hooking up" behavior, author Carrie L. Lukas writes: "This does not mean that we need to turn the clock back to an era where women waited by the phone and never initiated a first kiss. But it's important for young women (and men) to be aware of the pitfalls of modern dating and to consider how to create a culture more conducive to healthy, lasting relationships."

On a relevant side note, one of the biggest reasons that I so strongly support women's sports programs at both the high school and college levels is that studies indicate that young women who learn early to love their bodies by playing sports get into the habit of treating their bodies as the beautiful temples that they are, which in turn makes them far less inclined to engage in any behaviors (including sexual behaviors), that can put their bodies (as well as their hearts, souls and minds), at risk.

So what, exactly, is so important about choosing commitment in relationships versus random hooking up?

Well, when Mat Boggs and Jason Miller, two unmarried 28-year-olds who co-founded "Project Everlasting," set out to unearth the secret to lasting love, they interviewed 200 married couples-several of whom had been married 40 years or longer-and they soon discovered that commitment appears to be the one key ingredient that keeps couples together over the course of time.

This was a revelation for the young men conducting the interviews. The couples explained to them that passion can ebb and flow, but it's the commitment that must remain solid for a marriage or a long-term relationship to work. Or, as Mr. Miller says, "Love is way more than the feelings that we're used to. Love to [these successfully married couples] is that decision to recommit when they don't feel [the passion]."

Six Tips For Steering Yourself or Your Dating-Age Child Away from Emotionally Hazardous "Hooking Up" Behavior

hooking up

Commitment appears to be the single most important quality shared by happily married couples.

If you are a young person trying to avoid (or at least curb), hooking up behavior, or if you are the parent of a young person of dating age who is trying to communicate with your child about the potential problems associated with hooking up behavior, here are some tips:

  1. On his popular talk show, Dr. Phil often tells his guests that they "teach other people how to treat them." If this is true (and I believe that it is), then it would follow that in a "hooking up" situation, young people are teaching other young people that it is okay to treat them not only like sexual objects, but like disposable sexual objects.

  2. Remember that society rewards young men who act promiscuously by labeling them as "studs" or "Casanovas," while at the same time punishing young women who engage in promiscuous sexual behavior by labeling them as "sluts" or "whores." Because of this admittedly unfair double standard, only the most emotionally mature of young men are likely to curb their hooking up behavior voluntarily, which means that this task (very unfairly, indeed), often falls to young women.

    This means that just because young women may feel sexual desire as strongly as their male counterparts, they must do their utmost to safeguard their emotional health, their bodies, and their good reputations by significantly curbing their hooking up behavior, or by not engaging in hooking up behavior at all. No one does themselves any favors by pretending this double standard does not exist. Some young women engage in excessive hooking up behavior in part because they like to think of themselves as rebelling against an overly puritanical society. But ultimately, this particular act of rebellion only ends up hurting the young women involved, (and it has pretty much zero effect on the society against which they are rebelling). Is this totally unfair to young women? Yes, you bet it is. But it is also a sad, ugly fact about dating life. Will society change one day? One can hope, and one can work toward creating that change. But it hasn't yet, and young women (and men) of dating age must deal with society as it exists right now.

  3. Your body is a temple. If you conceptualize your body in this way (as something sacred and beautiful that is not meant to be defiled), then you are far less likely to engage in all sorts of dangerous behaviors, including drinking, drugging, smoking ... and promiscuous sex.

  4. Parents sometimes never have a "sex talk" of any kind with their children of dating age, or if they do, they sometimes confine the talk exclusively to the physical mechanics of sex and/or to the importance of always engaging in safe sex, (always using condoms, etc.). These aspects of the conversation are important, to be sure, but they don't cover everything. Parents also need to talk to their dating-age children about the emotional aspects of sex and sexuality ... including the very real emotional consequences of engaging in excessive "hooking up" behavior.

  5. This one is very important because it has to do with my old favorite: self-forgiveness and compassion for self. If you have engaged in hooking up behavior in the past, or if you are currently doing so, please don't beat yourself up about it, because you are only human, and every single human being makes lots and lots of mistakes. People engage in hooking up behavior for a variety of reasons: to satisfy a sexual desire, to feel sexy and attractive, because they have been drinking and their inhibitions are down, and/or to fit in with a particular social crowd. But here's the good news: Each of us has it within our power to take control (or even to take back control), of our emotional and sexual lives by changing our behavior to achieve our optimal emotional and sexual health.

  6. Do you know how diet and fitness experts are always telling us that good nutrition and good exercise choices involve making a change in our attitudes and/or our "lifestyles"? Well, the same goes for changing "hooking up" behavior. In other words, if you feel like you are not making the best dating choices at the moment, please consider changing your "dating lifestyle," so that you can make better dating choices from now on.

Recommended Reading:

Emotional Abuse In Teen Dating Relationships

The Top Six Stressors In Life

Married Men Really Are Healthier


Dr. Phil

The Politically Incorrect Guide To Women, Sex and Feminism

Hooking Up: A Girl's All-Out Guide To Sex and Sexuality

The Washington Times

Child and Family Canada

The Colgate-Maroon News


To get more information about this and other highly important topics, sign up for your free subscription to our weekly "Be Safe, Live Long & Prosper" e-newsletter.

With every issue of the free newsletter, you’ll get access to the insights, products, services, and more that can truly improve your well-being, peace of mind, and therefore your life!

Share Email to a Friend Print This