There's this thing called hooking up ...

Breaking news from the NYT: Dating is out and casual sex is in.

Published December 15, 2008 8:00PM (EST)

Newsflash via the New York Times: Dating has been stomped dead by a devastating cultural monster known as hooking up! The Times explains, for "those over 30 years old," that this current trend has young people hanging out in co-ed groups, instead of pairing off on dates, so that they can get to know members of the opposite sex in a casual, friendly environment -- and then sometimes sleep with them.

This might be news to author Charles M. Blow, but it isn't to the paper's very own Vows section, which on the very same day profiled a couple who met in the '70s: "They first went 'moon eyed' for each other in 1975, skipping past the dating phase, and, in the spirit of the times, jumping into a live-in relationship. 'People didn’t date,' remembered Ms. [Jane] Kallir, 54. 'You hung out and then you slept together.'" As I wrote in my essay in defense of casual sex: "For many people older than 20, 'hookup culture' will sound remarkably like, well, 'college.' Indeed, students shifted from dating to what was essentially hooking up during a wild time -- perhaps you've heard of it -- called the '70s."

Blow's reaction to this form of casual group dating as a "strange culture" seems out of both blindness to our recent cultural history and the belief that it is somehow unhealthy. But, to his own admission, this "doesn’t mean that they’re having more sex (they’ve been having less, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) or having sex with strangers (they’re more likely to hook up with a friend, according to a 2006 paper in the Journal of Adolescent Research)." The group friendship model allows young people to get to know their romantic interests as friends before sleeping with them. Dating comes after all that -- generally, when those two people begin to explore the idea of entering into a relationship. As my 20-something friend snarked when I mentioned the article: "What would he prefer -- for us to get to know eachother by  holding hands at the malt shop?"

By Tracy Clark-Flory

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