Scot gives some account of a culture ‘on steroids’ when it comes to sex in the USA:
– by the time of graduation from High School (18yrs), 75% of students will have had sex.
– about 70% of college students will have had sex with at least one partner in the last year
– Very few students were in a long-term relationship with the person they were having sex with. A hook up culture had detached sex from deeper relationships.
– In one study of 555 undergrads, Laura Sessions Step found 4 out of 5 had hooked up as a result of planning to have some form of sex but with no particular person in mind.
Scot quotes studies that talk about the long-term emotional damage to women in a hookup culture. Words like these are used:
Exhausted, spent, emptied, depressed, pressured, degraded, dirty, ashamed, unfulfilled …
We live in a paradoxical culture that exalts successful individualism yet is full of people McKnight calls ‘highly inspired workaholics’ – busy people avoiding the burden of relationships and who find hooking up to be easier. Hooking up entails less commitment, less complications. Love and commitment are interpreted as a restraint on individual freedom. So sex is divorced from love since love costs; a ‘see how it goes’ or ‘don’t get in too deep’ culture. The result is a wary and cynical generation burnt by love.
Rather than throw up hands in horror, a better question for Christians to ask is ‘What is a kingdom of God vision for sex?’
Scot’s answer to this question is that ‘Love is a rugged commitment to be with someone.’ Sex is about relationship and love, and sex without relationship and love, wounds. A Christian view of sex, love and marriage says “I will be with you”. It speaks of life-long covenant, of companionship, of oneness, of caring most about the other – of a kingdom vision of love, justice, peace and wisdom.
Such a vision has been distorted from the inside out by Western culture.
It is ironic that in a post-Christendom culture the ‘conventional’ idea of marriage is increasingly unconventional and even revolutionary. I asked the other day what does it mean radically to follow Jesus in a western culture? When it comes to sex and relationships, the ideas of covenant, self-giving and forgiveness are deeply and increasingly counter-cultural.
Some questions remain:
Scot’s main argument is to root sex within a loving committed relationship and to show how damaging when detached from that context. But this seems to have little to say to couples who are with each other long-term but choose not to get married?
For example, I was a having a pint with a Christian couple like this a while ago. They’ve been living together for years and would agree with pretty well all Scot says in this chapter. But they do not see the value what they see as just an external ceremony. What matters is their relationship and love of one another.
What would be your response?