Sunday, November 23, 2014

Becoming Friends With Lifelong Benefits

"Place me like a seal over your heart,
    like a seal on your arm;
for love is as strong as death,
    its jealousy unyielding as the grave.
It burns like blazing fire,
    like a mighty flame."

 Song of Songs 8:6 (NIV) 

In an October 20, 2014, column "Why Can't We Be Friends?" published in James Madison University's student newspaper, the Breeze, Amanda Anzalone makes the case that JMU's 'hookup culture' tends to get in the way of students forming healthy relationships.

Nevertheless she still goes on to say, "Casual sex alone isn't a problem, since college is often a time for experimentation and self-discovery (and if that's something you're into, more power to you). The problem stems from the negative attitudes and pressures perpetuating from it."

Her column concludes with a similar statement, "Casual sex and hookups, when done in a safe and healthy way, can be a great thing for the people involved, but it becomes a problem once it starts getting in the way of new friendships. Don't miss out on the opportunity to make friends who last long after you're out of the college 'hookup' culture."

So for Anzalone and many of her generation it's just another lifestyle choice--whether to engage in casual and multiple hook-ups or to save sex for a celebration of a committed lifelong partnership. Take your pick, since one approach is evidently as good as the other when it comes to "happily ever after".

Or is it? And just what is "casual sex"? How can engaging in anything as passionate and intense as skin-on-skin intercourse be considered "casual"? When did entering another's bare body in intimate, bonding embrace become just another form of weekend entertainment? And how can we be sure that this kind of promiscuous behavior won't become an addictive pattern that will persist after we finally settle down and get married?

Of course we could decide to reduce sex to being a purely soulless genital activity devoid of any human affection, accountability or commitment. Which appears to be increasingly the case.

In the last (issue of Rolling Stone magazine, Sabrina Rubin Erdely tells the horrific story of a gang rape of "Jackie" at a fraternity house at the University of Virginia, an all too common occurrence at all too many of our universities. Might this rape mentality be the ultimate result of a view of sex that has become stripped of any connection to lasting love and committed-for-life relationships?

Erdely writes of many young adults, "For much of their lives, they've looked forward to the hedonistic fun of college, bearing every expectation of booze and no-strings sex. A rape heralds the uncomfortable idea that all that harmless mayhem may not be so harmless after all."

Which has me sometimes question the wisdom of our social experiment of having 18-year-olds spend four or more of their young adult years in a peer-dominated environment largely removed from family and other adult oversight. And whether it was it an altogether bad thing to have young Madison college women in the sixties still having their boy friends sign in at Alumnae Hall before taking them out on dates.

Dates? What an outdated concept these days. Imagine actually taking time to get acquainted with someone before going to bed with them, to make a loving friendship a basis for a future lasting partnership.

"Many waters cannot quench love;
    rivers cannot sweep it away.
If one were to give
    all the wealth of one’s house for love,
    it would be utterly scorned."

                                   Song of Songs 8:7 (NIV)

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