Monday, March 04, 2013

Flawed Reasoning About Hookups

In his interview on WHYY's Morning Edition today, Dr. Dan Gottlieb talked about "hookup culture." Unfortunately his remarks evinced a biased attitude toward the subject, as I discussed in this message I sent the station:

While Dan Gottlieb is right to say parents should tell their children that casual sex can be physically pleasurable (if only so they won't lose credibility), that's only half the story. His suggestion that it compares unfavorably in other respects with dating suffers from a fatal flaw: none of the figures he cited actually makes such a comparison. In the absence of corresponding numbers for dating, the findings about hookups that he reports are of little practical relevance.

In particular I would dispute the claim, for which he doesn't even cite any study data, that hookups involve "an increased risk of sexually transmitted infections." Quite the opposite, I think: because people who are hooking up do so for the explicit, unambiguous purpose of having sex, it's pretty certain that they'll bring protection. In a dating situation, by contrast, women in particular may tell themselves that they don't really intend to have sex -- especially if it's one of their first dates with someone -- while secretly hoping that something might "just happen." This sort of romantic fantasy often results in someone's coming to a date without birth control or, even if they bring it, failing to use it because they're "carried away by the moment," or because they're afraid showing they came prepared for sex (instead of relying on the man for birth control) will make them seem "slutty."

In a hookup situation this isn't an issue, since by agreeing to it a woman makes clear she's not ashamed about wanting sexual pleasure. So she not only will come prepared, but is highly likely to use what she brought.

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