The Hookup Culture Also Hurts Our Boys
By James Lam
When we discuss the growing trends of young people engaging in the "hookup culture" - casual sex and sexual acts outside of marriage - we often speak of the damage it does to girls. There's good reason for that, obviously - young women often feel great pressure to go along with certain behaviors and later pay a high price for it in terms of sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy and emotional wounds. But what about the young men?
They pay a price, too.
NBC News recently ran a worthwhile read (which, I should warn you, contains graphic and coarse language) that explores the growing phenomenon where boys have exchanged handwritten notes with graphic text messages and nude photos delivered right to their romantic interest's phone.
I'll quote from the NBC News article: "According to new research, boys who engage in this kind of sexualized behavior say they have no intention to be hostile or demeaning - precisely the opposite. While they admit they are pushing limits, they also think they are simply courting."
It's a lot to take in, especially the new and corrupted understanding of the term "courting."
How have young men become so misguided in their thinking? And what are the consequences of this type of mentality and behavior?
I'll answer the second question first. The hookup culture does two main things to boys: the first is it causes them to have a low and inhumane view of sexuality (often from pornography) which then hurts their general life skills for years and years to come.
Think about it this way: a boy who takes part in random sexual acts doesn't learn what is good, healthy, respectful and God-ordained. He's being conditioned for underperformance, as he won't be able to exercise self-control or a desire to pursue well in other areas of his life. His chances to build and lead a home later on are also negatively impacted - how can he live out the servanthood love required by husbands and fathers if he's only learned to quench his lust by taking from others?
The second way the hookup culture hurts boys is by crippling their ability to have healthy relationships. As we talked about on a recent broadcast on protecting families from the "digital invasion," the quick rewards of "sexting" causes boys to lose "emotional IQ." It does this by creating an environment ripe for sexual addiction - and sexual energy, best understood, is actually relational energy. For humans, unlike animals, sex is a prompting for a real and valuable human relationship, so when sexual energy can be spent so easily in a hookup culture, a boy's ability to enter into a safe, trusting relationship - of any kind - is atrophied.
I'll circle back to my original question now: How have we allowed our young men to become so misguided in their thinking?
A lot of the blame falls to us men. After all, how can a boy learn to be a man without someone to teach him?
We have to do the hard, intentional work of fatherhood and mentoring. I say this as a dad to two boys - I know it's challenging. I know some of these conversations can even feel awkward and embarrassing. Yet we have to get over it and not assume that the boys in our lives will grow up to be good men by some miracle.
You are that miracle.
If you have a son, you have to work hard at being a good father, and being a good dad isn't easy. It takes a lot of effort and sacrifice.
Here are some practical ways, culled from the wisdom of our counselors, that we can help boys understand what it means to be a godly man.
Grow in our own manhood and sexual self-control. We can't teach and model what we don't live.
Teach them a message that goes beyond just abstinence. God-ordained sexuality is more about doing good - being a living, walking symbol of Christ and His Church through celibacy or faithful marriage - than simply not having sex. Teach your son and the young men God may call you to mentor what our bodies and marriage symbolize versus a simplified message of "stay restrained and bounce your eyes."
Challenge your boys to goodness through frank discussion and by inviting them into the world of manhood. You can say something like, "Son, I have to stay faithful to your mom, and I want to do that. You have a similar destiny to get ready for too - You are a man in training. There are challenges to our goals and it's not always a fair fight with easily available pornography or other temptations. Just know this: I want to be on your team and I want you to be on mine for this journey. God has given us men good sexual interest and desire to invest into a family - and we must honor Him by controlling and directing those desires correctly."
It's not easy to guide a young man in the proper stewardship of his sexuality in this world - but as divorce rates remain high and sexual addictions soar, we're seeing that it's harder not to take on this important task. You can do it. You must do it.