posted on: Thursday October 7, 2010
Kelly Dorwin ’12 / Guest Commentary
In response to Allison Pelle ‘11’s commentary article entitled “Rules of Dating: Essential or Irrelevant?” published in the Sept. 16 issue of The Cowl, I think it is an oversimplification of our cultural dynamics (not to mention extremely unfair) to say that our generation is responsible for the breaking down of traditional male-female relationships and the creation of a “hook-up culture.”
The fact that our generation now has terms that identify a more widely-accepted variety of relationships, from “friends-with-benefits” to “random hook-ups,” does not mean that we created these liberal notions of what it means to be intimately or sexually involved with another person. We simply redefined the different kinds of premarital sexual relationships with more modern terms — we put a name to the face. One cannot argue that a relationship where couples have sex out of wedlock or cheat on each other because they are “unofficial” started with today’s youth. It happened in our parents’ and our grandparents’ generations, too. After all, wasn’t the ’60s the era in which the sexual revolution began? I distinctly recall that one of my father’s favorite songs from the ’60s is entitled “Love The One You’re With.” Since then, it seems that each generation has become more accepting of these loose definitions of dating.
Simply put, today’s youth take more liberal views than their parents did on many issues, including sexual promiscuity, teen pregnancy, and consequently the sexual relationships that exist outside of marriage. Let’s face it: We are growing up in a world that is vastly different from the one our parents grew up in; an America where the divorce rate is as high as 50 percent and where the term “family” incorporates single-parent families, extended families, and so on. The important difference is that we have grown up in a more tolerant social environment, and therefore we are more vocal today about the different forms of romantic relationships that exist in our society.
The classroom serves as an open forum for us to express our opinions about these kinds of issues in a setting where our views are not influenced or stifled by the prejudices of our parents. In a sense, I do feel nostalgic for a time when relationships encompassed respect and love more than they did sexual intimacy. My goal, however, is not to emulate the 1950s housewife who, as Pelle suggests, “belongs in the kitchen,” where her primary concern is to cook her husband’s meals. I don’t believe the quality of my relationships is dependent upon how well I can make breakfast for my boyfriend (see Pelle’s most recent article, “What Pancakes Taught Me About My Love Life,” for further information). History has shown us that change isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We are living in a time where the glass ceiling has been shattered for women. We can vote, have careers, and even wear shorts and show some leg! Perhaps we have taken a more liberal stance on what it means to be in a relationship because of the new roles we have adopted in society. Yet while we are grateful for some of the positive changes that came out of the ‘60s, the logic behind hook-ups or friends-with-benefits eludes many of us. Do I like the fact that some of my peers partake in these crude sexual affairs? Not really. As an optimist, I don’t believe that people who engage in such hollow and degrading relationships represent the vast majority of us. I think it would be extremely ignorant to assume that the more conservative views on dating and marriage are extinct. My parents, who will be celebrating their 22nd anniversary in April, are a testament to the fact that traditional views on love and marriage can be preserved, and can even adapt to the changing male-female roles in our increasingly liberal society. And, while I don’t think that our generation is the one responsible for shaking the moral fabric of society, I do wholeheartedly agree with Pelle on the fact that we can improve our relationships if we are willing to enter into them “openly, honestly, and wholeheartedly.” That sounds pretty traditional to me.