Michael Kimmel

Photo by Courtney Carmody via flickr.com
Photo by Courtney Carmody via flickr.com

Many parents worry that college will introduce their kids to a realm of unmediated romps between the sheets, but for all the very public discussions about “hooking up,” the trend of unceremonious sex didn’t start with this generation. Despite common portrayals of unchecked, excessive sexuality on university campuses, the Millennial generation isn’t having more casual sex than the Baby Boomers did in their time. In an online article for Cosmopolitan Magazine, Charlotte Lieberman turns to sociology to explain why modern college romance (or the lack thereof) is “so screwed up.”

Lieberman draws from Michael Kimmel’s Guyland, which argues that our society rewards those who follow the “rules” of masculinity and show “no fears, no doubts, and no vulnerabilities.” This type of emotional detachment has become a common defense mechanism in the dating world, says Lieberman, as women are often applauded for taking on attitudes typical of men.

Most of my peers would say ‘You go, girl’ to a young woman who is career-focused, athletically competitive, or interested in casual sex.

Some feminists have viewed casual sex as an example of women’s liberation, as the freedom to break gender norms and act more masculine. However, according to sociologist Lisa Wade, this “freedom” doesn’t go both ways.

[No one says] “You go, boy!” when a guy feels liberated enough to learn to knit, decide to be a stay-at-home dad, or learn ballet.

According to both Kimmel and Wade, our culture celebrates “thick skin” and emotional detachment in sexuality, rather than the transgression of gender norms. Hookup culture has created a dating field with a “whoever-cares-less-wins” attitude.

With emoticons and emojis replacing emotions, another complication of modern-day dating, according to Lieberman, is modern-day technology. Text messaging has become a main form of communication, and Millennials have developed self-screening skills that model Kimmel’s rules of emotional distance.

[When responding to a guy’s text,] it can’t be 10 minutes on the dot, because then it is obvious you were waiting. It should be longer than 15 minutes to show you’re not desperate but within the 45-minute window if you are trying to lay groundwork for that evening.

What is “screwed up” about dating, according to Lieberman and sociologists, is not that this generation has become emotionally desensitized by casual sex, but that Millennials are looking for love in the midst of a culture that views emotional apathy as empowering and possesses the digital means to censor any emotions they may experience.

Picture 2


Picture 2



Photo by Ted Johnson via flickr.com

On CNN.com, sociologist Michael Kimmel weighs in on the veracity of the latest declaration of a “war on men” by author Suzanne Venker (writing for FoxNews.com).

Rejecting the oh-so-popular tactic Venker employs—“Blame it on feminism!”—Kimmel argues that men still dominate, but attempts at equality may have been disorienting for a group used to a status quo that disproportionately benefits them:

I thought of how painful it is when you are used to having everything to now have only 80%. What a loss! Poor us! Equality sucks when you’ve been on top—and men have been on top for so long that we think it’s a level playing field.

Sass aside, Kimmel writes that equality is what many men want, based on the interviews he did with young men for his book Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men. Kimmel refuses to let Venker speak on men’s behalf when she calls for women to “surrender to their nature—their femininity.” Instead, he calls for rethinking what makes forsatisfying gender relations:

Who says we can’t be happy with fully equal female colleagues and coworkers? Who says we can’t enjoy the joys of shared parenthood? Who says that we are biologically programmed to be both rapacious testosterone-driven animals and lazy remote-hogging couch potatoes unable to lift a finger in the kitchen?

Venker paints a most unyieldlingly awful portrait of men, one that is happily belied by actual, real, American men. And we won’t stand for the sort of male-bashing Venker offers. We want it all also —and the only way we can have it all is to halve it all.