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!