Whatever happened to dating?



Once upon a time there was dating. How many generations ago was that? Do you remember those days? By a certain point in high school – Grade 10, Grade 11 – you looked forward to being “asked out on a date” by a nice guy, maybe someone you had been interested in for a while. You went to a movie. Or for pizza. He took you home. If you had fun, you hoped he would ask you out again. You probably went out with other guys too. But after a while you started “going steady” with one special guy. Maybe you wore his class ring.

If you weren’t dating, you were waiting and longing for that first date.

What happened to dating?

As the “sexual revolution” of the 60s progressed, having sex outside marriage began to lose its stigma in society. Some young people started to believe it was okay to have sex if they were dating someone they liked. School sex education programs told teens that sex was perfectly okay as long as it was “safe sex”. In the 90s a Christian high school student in Halifax said to me, “I can’t think of any of my friends from school who view sex as anything besides a pleasure thing. No one even gives waiting till marriage a thought.” An assembly speaker at our sons’ high school said that “the normal high school student” would have four sexual partners by the time they graduated. Teens had “friends with benefits,” the “benefit” being sex. Sex had become a normal aspect of dating.

And then came the “hook-up” culture, casual sexual encounters detached from relationship, love, or commitment – and sometimes even from liking. You could spontaneously decide to have sex with someone you had just met, or you might go out in the evening looking for someone with whom to have sex. Implicit in the hook-up culture is the understanding that however far you go sexually neither of you should become romantically involved in any serious way. You intentionally avoid intimacy. Dating, as we once knew it, essentially disappeared.


Why has the hook-up culture become so pervasive? What is the attraction?

Relationships, especially of the boy-girl variety, take time and emotional energy – the hard work of give-and-take, communication, and learning to deal with someone who is different. In a hookup, which goes straight to sex, you don’t have to develop a relationship. “Sex is more tangible than love,” said one college girl, “and it is much, much easier than taking the time to get to know someone.”

The problem with the hook-up culture

But hook-ups haven’t satisfied. Young people are left feeling sad, empty, lonely, and disillusioned. They think they leave their feelings at the door, but physical and emotional intimacy can’t be separated. Many would like to escape but don’t see a way out. The title of a book by Laura Sessions Stepp says it all: Unhooked: How Young Women Pursue Sex, Delay Love and Lose at Both. Her book is primarily about the young women she interviewed, but she saw that young men are as dissatisfied with the culture as the young women.

What is the solution? Is there a way back to emotionally fulfilling, non-sexual relationships?

March 31, 2015 - 3:29 pm

Amy Grace - I am a 26 year old, married for 4 years to the only boyfriend I had dated which makes a total of 8 years we have been together. We both had “waited” till marriage to have sex.

All that being said, the 4 years we “dated” in the format you are describing did nothing to prepare us for being in a real life marriage in the culture and spiritual climate we live in now. For those of us kids who grew up in the 90s in church raised homes with the ‘focus on the family’ mindset and material, we have had to shake some of these perspectives off well into our mid-twenties in order to find what God wants for our generation.

I believe God wants sexual purity in all generations, but how we talk about it and adapt to the language of each generation is huge. There are huge gaps of relating to the younger ones with this type of language you are using, and it concerns me. Especially now as I will give birth to a daughter in a few weeks I know that I want to be extremely cognizant of the generation she will be apart of and how my language and expressions will affect her and influence her for the good or unintentionally for the bad.

For me, I was a teen who wanted Gods will for my life. I was a ‘hardcore’ bible reader and devotional girl who also read every christian dating book and marriage book I could get my hands on. I was determined to carry my purity out and see what God would do with it.

But thats where we get it all lost in translation.

God isn’t interested in how much we ‘preach it’ about purity, or how pure we are. Because if He was … My husband and I would have won the medal and not have gone through an almost divorce over the amount of shock we had through ‘purity’ not being enough to keep us together on the day we got married.

Purity isn’t enough.
Dating isn’t enough.
Marriage isn’t enough.

Only Grace and the Cross are enough.

So, with that in mind, I would soon rather focus on talking about how we can love on the generations who are seeking intimacy, fulfillment and love through sex.
The ‘Hook Ups’ you are describing are nothing more than a search. The sex that teens are having are a search. All the condoms on the floor, empty pregnancy test boxes, sexting, naked pics being sent back and forth, the porn … Its all a cry for Grace and the Cross.

Instead of seeing the hook ups as ‘wrong’ or ‘immoral’ , I see them as acts of seeking the deepness of Christ. It looks bad, yes, but take it from the girl who kept sex for marriage and blew it all to pieces after.

“Dating and Waiting” mean nothing, because anyone can do that.

The question we need to be asking is not how to get teens back to an emotionally fulfilling non-sexual relationships, but how can we raise them up to seek out the deeply intentional sexual relationship with Christ.

Because God made us to be sexual, and that intimacy that we get in sex is that much more when met at the communion table.

April 6, 2015 - 6:04 pm

Barbara - Thank you for your reflections. It is very true that saving sex for marriage doesn’t automatically ensure a happy marriage and that only an intimate relationship with the living Christ can satisfy our deepest needs.

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