Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Non-Sexual Hook-Up Culture



My latest post about Catholic Dating contained something that has really struck a nerve.  Buried in my reflections on the philosophy behind the problems, I quoted something a reader wrote to me and I commented on it ...

"With Catholics and Christians (men AND women), there's a curious kind of non-sexual hook-up culture where you seek someone of the opposite sex to talk to and open up to and pray with without confronting the demands and scary questions of a real relationship."
Indeed, I have known devout young Catholic women who developed relationships with guys that were intensely intimate in every way but physically - emotionally intimate, spiritually intimate, psychologically intimate - and (more than once) I've seen them drop these guys the minute the relationship became the least bit inconvenient, with a heartlessness that rivaled the dumping of a disposable partner in the hook-up culture whose sex appeal had waned and who was no longer useful.  

Since then I've heard from a number of male Catholic readers who have had this very thing happen to them, with all the inner devastation it entails.   Michael Lichens managed to put it succinctly (I quote him here with his permission) ...


I think a lot of women (and men, to be sure) think that so long as a relationship never reached a physical level, then it's okay to walk away from it and feel like you were never in the wrong.  That's not how even friendship works.  Getting close to someone requires responsibility, which I'm beginning to think most folks of my generation just want to avoid.


Indeed, the sexual hook up culture has advantages over the non-sexual hook up culture.  When two people are simply using each other for physical pleasure, and one gets bored and moves on, that might sting a bit, but it's simply part of the game.  But when deep emotional and spiritual intimacy develops and one side walks away with the same kind of glibness you'd see in a one night stand that ended, it's emotionally crushing.

And let me take a minute to avoid being politically correct.

Every story I've heard so far is of women doing this to men - women gaining all the benefits of a non-sexual but intensely intimate relationship and then (when things get inconvenient) pulling a Pontius Pilate, washing their hands and walking away, convinced that the level of intimacy they shared created no obligations on their part, convinced that the friendship that formed carried with it no responsibilities, blind to the bond that they so casually sever, without a trace of compunction.  That, at least, seem to be the pattern.

Perhaps this covers for a certain embarrassment, realizing how close they've come to a man, with a kind of closeness that can only end in marriage, sex and babies.  Perhaps the women suddenly say, "What the hell am I doing?  I can't marry this guy!" and they're able to go through with the break up by telling themselves, "Well, I enjoyed the attention, but it was never more than that.  I'm sorry he thinks it was, but the closeness we shared was never meant to lead to anything - even a lasting friendship.  I certainly have no obligations here."  And that, somehow, justifies the whole thing in their eyes.  It was just dating without romance, or emotional penetration without physical penetration, or closeness without friendship.  And yet it ends in a way that is really more than a break up, it's a betrayal.

Maybe this is a bit of karma coming back to the males of our species, who typically did exactly this to women, but only after getting enough sex out of them to enjoy things for a while.  But at least when there's sex, both parties know that something serious is happening, or might start to happen.

In a non-sexual hook-up, since no one's getting screwed, you can't imagine that, nonetheless, someone's getting screwed!


26 comments:

jvc said...

To summarize, it's the Catholic version of the friendship zone, and every non-threatening, good guy Catholic male has probably been through it a dozen plus times by the time he finishes college.

Women can get away with murder from a dating perspective. Another gift of the sexual revolution.

jvc said...

I recommend the movie "Just Friends" to every male out there who has experienced this approximately 50 times.

Women walk away from these relationships and consistently act shocked and surprised when the guy suggests that they are/were dating.

An antidote: use the word "dating" liberally. We're going on a date. I'm taking you on a date. Do you want to go on a date.

The firmer you are with the language, the less she can deny it or convince herself that it's not something real.

jvc said...

I'll also throw in from my personal mistakes, be more physical early on. Hold her hand, try to kiss her. Enough of the stupid hugging BS.

You have to force it into her mind that you are dating.

Kathleen Ritter said...

From the woman's perspective: Perhaps your readers (male) aren't seeing the entire picture here. I can't tell you how many times my girlfriends and me, when we were younger, found ourselves in similar situations, where the young man simply refused to be a man and do the very simple (and scary) thing called asking us out on a date. Or, he would rely on us for emotional nurturing while pining away for someone else (without ever actually asking her out, either). A girl can only go through that for so long, being hurt for so long by a guy she genuinely cares about but who is too scared to man up and date, before she's going to pull the plug. And trust me, we didn't walk away glibly; there's a lot of pain involved when you realize that someone you care about isn't ready to take a risk. Again, I am soooo glad I'm finally out of that scene. I married a guy who took a risk, who wasn't my "type", who I didn't even really like at first. But he took that risk.

Kathleen Ritter said...

jvc -- You nailed it.

Kathleen Ritter said...

And men . . . stop whining about how feminism has emasculated you. They're your balls, take 'em back. :-)

Michael J. Lichens said...

Ms Ritter, with respect, you seem to comment a lot about how emasculated men are but then admit you got out of dating a long time ago. So, which is it?

While I generally agree with you that men do need to do the scary thing and commit, it is a two-way street. One cannot be an emotional friend then just walk out and say, "Oh well." That was the point of my comment.

Michael J. Lichens said...

And jvc, I agree to a point. I've learned that you kind of have to force a decision early on. We are dating or just friends. The current dating culture leaves too much grey.

Tom Leith said...

So long as everyone's clear that the only object of a "date" is the further exploration of the attributes of a likely-suitable mate, fine. If that isn't what you're doing, don't "date". And what that means is "never kiss someone you're not pretty sure you'd marry, given the chance". A sort of kiss you wouldn't give your sister or brother is well-nigh a promise. A terrific substitute (so to speak) for a "premature" kiss is dancing. I am told people used to know this.

jvc said...

Guys do it too, yes. I've known at least a couple dreamboat hipsters with a dozen female groupies who all think they have a chance at the band leader.

The difference is that today women seem to get away with it far more, and our culture reinforces it by letting women off the hook more than men.

One reason for the emasculation of men is that after a half dozen or so of these episodes, the guy is tired of making commitments or putting himself out there and "taking a risk."

Fortunately for coeds, men are gluttons for punishment and eventually gain the strength to try again. There is no real alternative.

jvc said...

500 Days of Summer is another great movie that touches on the friend zone. Not that I have an eye for them, obviously.

Kathleen Ritter said...

Michael Lichens - I don't comment a lot about how emasculated men are; rather, some men on this page have a tendency to intellectualize the problem by falling back on the "feminism emasculated men" excuse. As for my post, I was simply providing the woman's perspective -- in the original post there was language about women just "glibly" walking away. My point in responding was to point out that, while this may in fact occur, has it ever occurred to these men experiencing this that perhaps the woman DIDN'T glibly walk away (rather, perhaps this was just the hurt man's perception of the situation, which is no more or less valid than the woman's). It may very well be that she was hurting as much, or more, than he was. In my friends' and my experience, this was often the case. But it is very easy to create stories about how she just "glibly" walked away, isn't it? My point was, maybe that's not the whole story.

As for why I'm out of the game, it's because I met an imperfect man, made a good friend, became attracted to his quieter qualities, fell in love, married him.

jvc said...

Kathleen's right, a lot of "I love you like a sister" going on. I do think it's happening more to guys, though.

Michael J. Lichens said...

It is easy to create stories, but that's not what I was doing.

Michael J. Lichens said...

It is easy to create stories, but that's not what I was doing.

Kathleen Ritter said...

And why you would imagine that my my comments about creating stories were aimed at you is your own issue, Michael. My comments were general and speaking from the perspective of a woman, which was lacking in this thread.

Michael J. Lichens said...

Gotcha. Sorry for the misreading.

I guess I suck at understanding women ;)

Catho-holic said...

@Kathleen Ritter
Do you really think catholic men aren't emasculated by feminism? The modern American man raised from day to never interact with women unless she initiates. We are told that one of the worst things we can do to a women is to make her unconformable; which can be done by talking to her, complementing her, asking her out and even by just looking at her. Men are told if we want to do anything at all with women we need to wait until she lets us know that its okay. We are raised in an unrealistic real that we are sexually harassing women by default and need to restrain ourselves at every moment of our life. So since men are told never to initiate unwanted attention to women, men go for the other route; wait till she makes the first move.

Unfortunately that's not how American catholic women operate. American catholic women are told to wait for the guy to make the first move, that the guy has to pay for all the dates and if he doesn't do this he isn't a man. None of this is part of our faith, but rather a romanticized emulation of 1950s dating culture, not Catholic culture.

We need to stop placing all the blame on men, they've been "manning up" for decades with no women to be a man for.

Eddie said...

What is wrong in a woman asking a guy out ?

We guys have had it up to here with the...it's ok for us to take chances...

If you are a woman you have no clue at all what it is really like!

Kathrine said...

This is one of the most important dialogues that needs to happen today. I'm so glad to see it happening here. Jesus said that there is no marriage in heaven, and I am encouraged reading about St. Aelred who would hold hands, etc. with so many around him, out of love. Life and intimacy with all of the Christian community around one ought to be deep, tender, and especially lasting. Hmmm, maybe we should not segregate the sexual component from the bond of Christian love? These are hard questions, but ones that humans must face-up-to now, and for their betterment. For a whole love.

TRS said...

Oh dear! It just keeps getting worse.
Men can't seem to commit to a date. Now they're saying you gotta pound it into the woman's head that It IS a date.
Yes. Make a date. Use the words. They matter.

I can count on one hand how many Catholic men have asked me out. And I've been dating longer than some of you have been alive.

Most importantly... Yes, feminism has emasculated men. But you have to realize, faithful Catholic women are the victims of that culture too. Not the perpetrators.
We value true masculinity, I've been waiting for a man to lead in faith, a man to take risks as Kathleen says.

Why are Catholic men so timid? And why are there no single men at Mass in the First place?

Patrick said...

"Why are Catholic men so timid? And why are there no single men at Mass in the First place?"

There's nothing worth fighting for. The incentives are destroyed. Women wear jeans and a buzz cut. But more importantly, women are not feminine, not demure, not submissive, they don't cast down their eyes and blush, they are not women. The only way they know to attract men on a visceral level, that will make his mouth water and heart race is to dress slutty. They destroyed all feminine vulnerability. They're unattractive, not necessarily physically, so men aren't attracted. The second question is related, everything that men care about, admire, enjoy, feel good about in Mass has been destroyed and replaced with things that appeal to women. Mass isn't attractive anymore, so men aren't attracted to it.

Patrick said...

Msgr. Pope has some interesting commentary on this topic.

http://blog.adw.org/2014/08/on-the-loneliness-of-the-sexual-revolution-as-noted-in-a-wonderful-new-book/

Anonymous said...

Sounds like how most people approach Evangelisation and their congregations, or what Dr Bryan Cross calls 'Ecclesial Consumerism'.

Be a 'member' of a congregation, and swoon and supposedly 'slain in the Spirit' - but only until you get bored or the priest says something you don't like - or there's a better congregation or pastor across town that 'meets my need' more, then just walk off...

Anonymous said...

@TRS
How many of those Catholic men did you say yes to? Men are rejected to much by they time they are at the age for marriage they have no hope that they will ever be married.

Anonymous said...

I can testify this does happen to women, too. I dated a man for 1 1/2 yrs and became very emotionally attached (no physical relationship- we did it the truly Catholic way in that aspect). I would have married him if he had asked, but he decided he wanted to "take a break" from dating and "just be friends." I was devastated.