I love reading books for review, and I was instantly intrigued when I saw the title of Donna Freitas’ new book, The End of Sex: How Hookup Culture is Leaving a Generation Unhappy, Sexually Unfulfilled, and Confused About Intimacy. Now that I’ve finished this book, I feel like I have many new ideas about how I want our family to approach the topic of sex.
Donna Freitas uses The End of Sex to describe the findings of her research on hookup culture on college campuses. Hookup culture is defined by the absence of relationships and emotions in sexual encounters, with a hefty dose of alcohol added in for good measure. Freitas uses the students’ own words to explain how college students are expected to hookup, and the huge pressures within the culture for students to have no feelings for the person with whom they are hooking up. The students explain how dating no longer happens on campuses. In the majority of cases, students either didn’t know anyone who has ever been on a date or they only used the term to describe “serial hookups”, where you hookup with the same person, but still don’t spend time with them when you aren’t intoxicated or having a sexual encounter.
She polled students in a variety of settings — public and private secular colleges, private Catholic colleges, and private evangelical Christian colleges. The results of her study were fascinating. With the exception of private evangelical Christian colleges, the hookup culture was virtually identical on college campuses. Freitas found that private evangelical colleges have an alternate scene – a purity scene – which was filled with its own quirks. Having attended a private evangelical college, I didn’t need any further explanation. She does, however, suggest additional resources for people who want to read more about the culture of purity.
One of the things that I really enjoyed about this book is that Freitas looks at many different angles of the subject, including ways that different students have attempted to “opt out” of the hookup culture, and programs that have worked (and failed) at college campuses across the country. One of her biggest points is that students realize that they want to have GOOD, meaningful sex, but often don’t know how to get it in the midst of hookup culture. Young men are encouraged to act out macho roles, pretending that they only care about getting a lot of random sex. Young women are encouraged to play out fantasy roles, inspired by pornography, at theme parties every weekend, and feel extreme pressures to neither appear “needy” nor to want more than semi-anonymous sex.
I feel like I am walking away from this book with a much stronger understanding of the sexual attitudes that I want to teach my kids. Freitas’ research shows that students who feel empowered to make a stand to wait for meaningful, good sex are much more likely to avoid the depression and emptiness that many describe as part of hookup culture. She encourages the reader to not only reconsider religious, conservative abstinence-only programs (which do not influence a majority of college students), but to equally scrutinize the far-left curriculum which focuses primarily on avoiding STIs, pregnancy and rape as opposed to being selective about sex. She feels that there is a need for education that shows students that there is a middle ground, and that it is important for both sides to adjust the rhetoric for the sake of the students.
I really enjoyed this book, and I’d recommend it to any parent. It has not been many years since I was in college, but I know that the culture has shifted a lot in a short time. This book adds much to the conversation about young adults and sex, and it is well worth the read.
As I mentioned, I received an electronic copy of this book to review for NetGalley. I was not otherwise compensated, and I was under no obligation to give a good review.