However the Kobe Bryant case is resolved, there is one thing we
do know: whether the sex was voluntary or coerced, Bryant surely
intended it to be no more than a hook-up. When he admitted to adultery,
he was not admitting to having an emotionally involved affair. Kobe
Bryant believes a hook-up with a stranger, while possibly embarrassing,
is a forgivable foible, not a serious offense. He evidently expects
the public to share this view.
“hook-up mentality” is one of the legacies of the sexual
revolution. The assumption behind that mentality is that sex is
just another recreational activity. Yet many college campuses have
date rape crisis centers, where female students can go after being
traumatized by having unwanted sex, sex that may not have been strictly
Popular culture has instructed us that sex has no moral significance.
Rape is bad; all other sex is good. If this is true, then why is
unwanted, but unforced, sexual activity a crisis? After all, young
people eager to impress a member of the opposite sex let themselves
get talked into all kinds of things. But we don’t have “basketball
game date crisis” centers, to counsel people traumatized by
going to a basketball game they didn’t really want to see.
this accusation: “my date took me to a basketball game. I
consented. It was fun at first, but by the third quarter, it was
obvious who was going to win. I wanted to leave, but I couldn’t
because he had the keys. He insisted on staying until the final
buzzer. I felt so violated, my trust so betrayed, I called the police.”
this absurd comparison between sex and basketball games helps us
see that there really is something unique about sex. The major premise
of the sexual revolution is that sex is nothing more than a pastime.
But the presence of date rape crisis centers demonstrates that no
one really believes this. If sex were really just harmless fun,
then being talked into it shouldn’t be any bigger deal than
being talked into a basketball game. The issue of consent wouldn’t
loom so large nor be so difficult to discern.
sexual revolution, given to us by both the Life Style Left and the
Libertarian Right, pretends to promote morally neutral sex. But
in fact, our modern sexual norms have a very vigorous, if tacit,
moral code. For instance, we aren’t supposed to feel bad if
the guy we slept with never calls back. We are supposed to celebrate
the freedom and independence of the hook-up. In short, we are not
allowed to assign meaning to our sexual acts.
we keep assigning meaning to sex, in spite of ourselves. We want
our sex partner to matter to us, or at least, we want to matter
to them. Even the girls on Sex and the City are figuring
out that sex is more than a lark. One character has become absorbed
by taking care of her baby. She longs for a relationship with the
baby’s father. Another character describes herself as “lonely,
really lonely.” But the hook-up mentality doesn’t allow
us to face up to the deeply embedded fact that we want to matter
to our partners.
sex is a big deal, or it isn’t. If it is really no big deal,
then “unwanted sexual activity” shouldn’t be particularly
traumatic. If sex really is a big deal, with substantial physical
and emotional consequences, then we can’t very well say that
sex is just another recreational activity. Every serious person
knows which horn of this dilemma is true.
reason that sex matters so much is that we give our body to the
other person, leaving ourselves physically and emotionally vulnerable.
We could get beat up by a date, but the more subtle emotional injuries
are much more common. We might feel used or manipulated. We might
feel like a chump because the whole experience mattered more to
us than to the other person.
we face up to the deep meaning of human sexuality, we come to a
new appreciation of marriage. For within the context of life long
love, the vulnerability inherent in sex can become an opportunity
for intimacy, rather than an occasion of fear. It makes sense to
give ourselves completely to a spouse. But it is utterly irrational
to surrender ourselves in the same way, to a mere hook-up partner.
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