USA Today recently ran this article describing the somewhat contradictory relationship culture faced by young adults, especially on college campuses.
In many cases, sexual hook-ups—sexual relationships with zero responsibility or commitment—are commonplace. As one girl puts it,
With the people that I know, there is a fair share of hooking up just to have sex, and the intention is to only do it once and possibly never see that person again. . . . I know a few girls who would like to hook up every weekend, but sometimes the opportunity doesn’t present itself. They call that an "unlucky night."
As student leaders and parents, here are a few ideas and talking points we can use to help our teens and young adults move toward a more biblical understanding of relationships. . . .
- Commitment v. Competition. The USA Today article states that most college campuses have more female students than male students. That leads to a competition for companionship among females students. Mark Regnerus, a researcher at the University of Texas, stated, "The women wind up competing with each other for access to the men, and often, that means relationships become sexual quicker."
What We Can Do: Remind our young people not only that sex is reserved for a marriage relationship, but also that they don’t have to take a backseat to anyone. Genuine, fulfilling relationships won’t be found in a competitive culture, and, as individuals created in God’s image, they are worth more than that.
- Putting the Cart Before the Horse. Researchers are finding that the hook-up culture is reversing the traditional pattern of relationships. Young people once spent time getting to know someone (through courting or dating), then determined if the relationship needed to go deeper. Now, they go "deeper" (in the form of sexual intimacy) first and let that determine if "dating" happens. One student noted, "In a big way, hookups have kind of taken the place of—not exactly eclipsed—relationships, but hooking up is kind of an easier way for college students to act on their sexual desire without making a big commitment."
What We Can Do: Remind our teens that genuine relationships aren’t built in a day—or in a one-night stand. Encourage them to invest in other people, to be givers rather than takers. Challenge them to proclaim their value, while valuing others at the same time.
- You Are Not Alone: True Love Waits was established, in part, to provide a voice for teenagers who wanted to stay pure until marriage, but felt muted or alone in their efforts. The campaign was designed to help these young people know that they were not alone in standing for purity. One bright spot found in the USA Today article revealed that the numbers of students claiming to be virgins is on the rise—even on college campuses. "Personally, a lot of my friends at school have had sex," one student told the paper. "As many, if not more, haven’t."
What We Can Do: In today’s hook-up culture, the message that teens are not alone again needs to be proclaimed. We can encourage them to stand together by providing support and accountability. We also can help them stay pure the right way and for the right reasons. While the article raises the possibility that pornography is "helping" students stay abstinent, parents and leaders can point their teens toward the true reason for staying pure—the glory of God.
Let us hear from you: What is your reaction to the USA Today article? What sticks out to you and how can we respond as Christian parents and student leaders?